Parliament: Families - MPs back parents' right to paid leave

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PARENTS SHOULD have a statutory right to paid leave from work without the threat of losing their jobs when they have children, an all- party committee of MPs said last night.

Under a European Union directive to be implemented on 15 December, men and women will qualify for up to three months' unpaid leave when they have a baby or adopt a child. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was warned by the Commons Select Committee on Social Security that only the well paid would be able to afford to take up the right to unpaid leave, leaving the poorly paid at a disadvantage.

The Government has decided to allow low-income parents to claim benefits including income support during periods of leave, with an estimated 1,000 people taking advantage of the move at a cost of pounds 1.5m a year.

The committee, chaired by the Liberal Democrat Archy Kirkwood, said: "It is clear to us that if parental leave is unpaid, take-up among fathers will be particularly low."