In the Queen's Speech at the state opening of parliament yesterday it was revealed that the coalition government plan to revolutionise maternity leave by allowing parents to split it between themselves.
The move could allow mothers to return to work earlier after the birth of a child, but also allow fathers to be more hands-on with their newborns.
At present, mothers are allowed to take up to 12 months maternity leave, of which nine months is paid.
Fathers can only take two weeks paid paternity leave. However, following changes to paternity leave last year, if your child was born on or after 3 April 2011 fathers can be granted additional paternity leave of up to 26 weeks. If the mother has returned to work, the leave can be taken between 20 weeks and one year after the child was born, and fathers might be entitled to receive additional paternity pay.
But a consultation launched by ministers last year suggested that women should automatically get five months paid maternity leave, along with six weeks paid paternity leave for their partners. They could then divide up a further seven months parental leave between them with all but the last three months being paid at the statutory minimum rate of £128.73.
The coalition has indicated that it plans to put the proposal to the house as a bill with the aim of making it law if both the House of Commons and the House of Lords vote in favour of it.
However, what David Cameron no doubt thought would be a popular policy is backfiring on him with companies complaining that the move would be very difficult for them and so far the Moneywise poll on the subject has found that most people believe a baby should be with its mother for the first year, while the father brings home the bacon.
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