In September 2009 the Government announced changes to maternity and paternity leave in response to a document by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The scathing report claimed UK maternity and paternity arrangements were the most unequal in Europe.
Currently, all new mums are entitled to nine months maternity leave with six weeks paid at 90% of their salary and the rest at the statutory rate of £123.06 – while British dads are only entitled to two weeks paid at the statutory rate.
According to a recent poll, 47%* of new dads wished they could work part time to spend more time with their family and nearly 60% take the full leave they are entitled to. The Government plans showcased last fall would have brought the UK into line with countries like Denmark, where parents are allowed 52 weeks paid leave and can divide it between them. In the UK, mums would be given the option to return to work early, with Dads entitled to up to 26 weeks paid leave.
‘That sort of system would have really benefited us,’ says Ian Smith, 36, from Bristol. ‘When my son Dean, now 3, was born, my wife Helen was running her own business. She only took three months maternity leave, and I would have loved to have picked up where she left off.’
Because of the economic slow down the scheme has been put on hold, and there are many opposed to its introduction at all. Small businesses say managing maternity vacancies is already an expensive nightmare. Others argue the level of bureaucracy involved could weigh heavy on the pocket of the taxpayer, and it is estimated it would cost £3.5bn to introduce changes. But what is best for the child?
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