5 August 2019
In the final days of her premiership, Prime Minister Theresa May decided to launch a consultation calling for views on changes to parental leave entitlements to ensure that they better reflect modern society and the desire to share childcare more equally.
The Government believes that changing paternity leave could have an important impact in promoting better gender equality in work and at home. The UK is below the OECD average in terms of length of dedicated paternity leave offered, though highest on length of maternity leave, demonstrating the size of the current discrepancy.
Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/good-work-plan-proposals-to-support-families and open for comments until 29 November 2019, the consultation asks whether statutory paternity leave for fathers and same sex partners should be changed and seeks suggestions on ways in which the shared parental leave policy introduced in 2015 could be improved.
It also sets out how the Government is looking to introduce a new Neonatal Leave and Pay entitlement, for parents of premature and sick babies who need to spend a prolonged period in neonatal care following birth.
Parents would receive one week of Neonatal Leave and Pay for every week that their baby is in hospital. This would be available to mothers, fathers and partners.
The new entitlement would mean that fathers and partners will no longer need to rely on taking annual and unpaid leave if their child is in hospital for longer than their paternity leave period. It would also provide them with additional time at home with their child to make up for the time spent in hospital.
Women and Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “This announcement is another step in the right direction, towards giving parents even more choice about how they manage work and parenting responsibilities. Fathers should not have to rely on annual and unpaid leave if they want to be involved in the first months of their child’s life.”
Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer
With yet another announcement from the Government on improving working conditions for parents, it is very clear that more developments in family leave entitlements are coming and employers need to be ready for them.
We do not yet know what the results of this consultation will be but, that said, employers may find themselves making significant changes to their current family-friendly policies over the next few years.
Although some employers may be concerned over what this could mean for their business, I would remind them that providing stronger leave options to fathers and partners can help mothers to return to work sooner, something that can be key in tackling a company’s gender pay gap.