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?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?