Another radical Lib Dem proposal is being implemented today as Nick Clegg announces the arrangements for flexible parental leave.
In essence, parents of new babies will be entitled to a year’s worth of parental leave that they can share between themselves to suit their own circumstances. He says:
From 2015, the UK will shift to an entirely new system of flexible parental leave. Under the new rules, a mother will be able to trigger flexible leave at any point – if and when she feels ready. That means that whatever time is left to run on her original year can be taken by her partner instead. Or they can chop up the remaining time between them – taking it in turns. Or they can take time off together – whatever suits them. The only rule is that no more than 12 months can be taken in total; with no more than 9 months at guaranteed pay. And, of course, couples will need to be open with their employers, giving them proper notice.
Decent maternity leave has long been a policy of the Lib Dems. In more recent years we have championed the rights of fathers to be able to share effectively in parenting.
We have come a long way from the maternity arrangements that were in place in the past. When I had my first child in 1974 the only option I was offered by my employer (now a University) was six weeks leave, after which I had to return to full-time work. My husband had no right to take any leave at all, not even for the birth.
Since then a combination of statutory entitlements, family-friendly contracts and a noticeable change in public attitudes towards parenting have had a marked impact on family life. These latest arrangements go yet further and will ensure that children are given the best start in life, that mothers can plan their career paths, that fathers can spend more time caring for their children, and that employers can benefit from increased loyalty from their staff.
* Mary Reid is the Monday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.