Parents want more flexible, part-time leave to look after children

Katy Morton
Monday, August 8, 2011

More than nine out of ten parents are in favour of a more flexible parental leave, according to a new survey.

The straw poll of 155 parents commissioned by the Fatherhood Institute found that 94 per cent of respondents were in favour of proposals to make parental leave more flexible, with nearly 80 per cent supporting the idea of shared maternity leave.

Around four-fifths of respondents agreed with the proposals that mothers and fathers should be able to take part-time parental leave, rather than only in full-time blocks.

The findings of the survey, part of the Institute’sresponse to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) Modern Workplaces consultation, which ends today), also reveals that more than a quarter of parents feel that four weeks leave reserved for each parent is not adequate for mothers, and 17 per cent said it was not enough time for fathers.

Under the proposals, outlined by the BIS, fathers will able to take an additional four weeks leave during their child’s first year, on top of the two weeks’ paid paternity leave already in place. The four weeks will also be available to mothers, along with the full 52 weeks maternity leave. If the mother goes back to work, the father could be entitled to take a total of seven months shared leave, four of which will be paid (News, 17 May).

Almost three-quarters of respondents thought employers should top-up parental leave pay to at least 50 per cent of salary level, and almost a quarter of respondents said it should be topped-up to full salary level.

Despite this, more than half of parents (52 per cent) said that the father in their household would be likely, or very likely, to take his share of the parental leave. For those who disagreed, more than half said it was because the father was the main breadwinner and the family would not be able to afford it.

Commenting on the Modern Workplaces consultation, charity Working Families has said that UK businesses can’t afford to delay proposals to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, which could lead to an estimated £222.5m net benefit to employers.

Chief executive Sarah Jackson explained, ‘Far from costing the earth, the simple extension of flexible working rights to all employees could bring real benefits to families and to business. The consultation paper suggests the extension of the right to request flexible working will lead to an estimated £222.5 million net benefit to employers.

‘Flexible working can reduce the costs of absenteeism and stress, decrease recruitment and retention costs, and increase performance.  This is one employment law reform that the UK can’t afford to delay.’

She added, ‘We welcome too the plans to give more parents choice about who works and who cares in the "flexible parental leave" proposals. But a much simpler solution would be to give both parents independent leave rights. Too many fathers can’t afford the two weeks of paternity leave available to them now: paying maternity and paternity leave properly would be more effective in delivering cultural change.  All families should be able to take the time they need with a new baby and improved pay would allow more new parents to access their rights.’


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