Government's new shared parental leave part of a growing global trend

New rules are designed to bring Britain more in line with global best practise

At the heart of the Government’s efforts to update Britain’s parental leave rules are two key objectives.

The first is to encourage the greater participation of fathers in caring for their children.

The second is to reduce the penalty suffered by women in lost earnings and career prospects as a result of taking long periods away from the workplace.

Britain has long occupied the bottom tier of the international league tables for earnings-related post-natal leave along with other English speaking countries, and nations including Russia and Switzerland.

Under proposals announced this week, couples will from April have the right to share 50 weeks of leave with two weeks being reserved for the mother to allow the recovery from birth.

Although some employers offer more generous terms, the first 39 weeks will be paid at the statutory minimum – either £136.78 or 90 per cent of salary whichever is the lowest. The remainder will be unpaid.

Rosalind Bragg of campaign group Maternity Action said that despite the perception that Britain had generous rights for parents it did not compare particularly favourably with many other countries.

“An effective system of shared parental leave is essential to gender equality. It means that fathers as well as mothers can be primary carers and for both to be able to take extended time out of the work place,” she said.

The decision to allow mothers and fathers to share their time off is part of a growing international trend towards sharing parenting rights. Many governments are either making time-off transferable between parents or designating specific periods for either the mother or father, according to the latest edition of the International Review of Leave Policies and Related Research 2013.

The report’s author Professor Peter Moss of the Institute of Education, University of London, said the UK system had been poorly designed in the 1970s and not been effectively reformed. “The general picture internationally is that if you are serious about fathers sharing leave there has to be a period for fathers only and it has to be well paid,” he said.

The Review found wide levels of variability between countries.

United States

Whilst there is no statutory right to parental leave the federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides for unpaid authorised absence for a number of reasons including child birth and care. However some states, including California and New York provide partial compensation during these periods of approximately half earnings.

Norway

Generous parental leave provision has helped drive up the number of fathers taking time off around the birth of a child from four per cent in 1997 to 70 per cent today. Parental money may either be taken for 47 weeks at full earnings or for 57 weeks at 80 per cent of earnings, up to the equivalent of around £55,000. Nine weeks are reserved for the mother and 12 for fathers with the rest shared although in practice this is overwhelmingly taken up by female parents.

Italy

Each parent is entitled to six months non-transferable leave. Total time off is limited to 10 months per family and parents receive 30 per cent of earnings for the period. Mothers are required to take four weeks off before the birth and four months afterwards. Father must take one day off at full salary. Italy has recently introduced a voucher system for new mothers which can be claimed in place of parental leave.

Australia

Eligible new mothers and fathers can take up to 12 months off work unpaid with a further year off with an employer’s agreement. Payments are made at the national minimum wage of around £340 a week. Dad and Partner Pay which came into force this year will provide eligible working fathers or partners, including adopting parents and parents in same-sex couples, with a further two weeks of benefits.

Japan

Woman are entitled to 14 weeks paid at two thirds of their salary although there is no statutory right to paternal leave. Parents are allowed to share time off up to the first 14 months of their child’s life. The Government pays 50 per cent of earnings up to £1,358 per month.

Brazil

Up to six months maternal leave and a maximum of 10 days paternal leave although this paid at 100 per cent of salary. No parental leave arrangements

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones