UK firms face parental leave changesJune 2011
The UK government has proposed adjustments to business regulations that will permit employees to split their parental leave allowances into blocks, thereby enabling mothers and fathers to share the time off given by their employers.
Under changes due in 2015, parents could take leave at the same time, or in several short, ‘flexible’ periods. A father’s paid leave would be increased from two to six weeks, and mothers would be able to share seven of their 12 months, four of which are paid, with the father.
Businesses would have the right to insist on continuous leave, however, and would be able to ask their staff to return for short periods, ‘depending on business needs’, says the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Many companies and business groups have expressed concern about providing cover for leave taken in blocks, and about the overall increase in allocated leave.
The government assures business that the reforms, proposed as part of its plans ‘to create a modern workplace for the modern economy’, will be flexible for employers as well as employees.
The ministry says it will build in the ability for businesses ‘to take into account their needs when agreeing how leave can be taken’, and recognizes ‘that legislation is not the only answer to promoting flexible working practices’.
Commentators have questioned why the changes will take four years to implement, though deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said: ‘It would be wholly irresponsible to rush these changes ... we cannot just spring them on employers.’
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