Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has said that the government is committed to introducing a year of shared leave for new parents by April 2015.
The dilemmas of working mothers, the rights of fathers to share childcare, and the nightmare this could bring for employers, featured in part two of our ‘Silent Taboos of Recruitment’ series, which fully supports Clegg’s opinion that shared leave will stop women feeling they have to choose between a career or a baby.
Under the changes the existing 52 weeks of maternity leave – other than the first fortnight for a new mother’s recovery – will be shared between the parents, and anyone taking total leave of six months or less over the period will be legally entitled to return to the same job.
Again I fully support Clegg’s thinking in that we need to challenge the old-fashioned assumption that women will always be the parent who stays at home. With many women now leading in roles that were previously the bastion of male dominance, it makes total sense that we should create a fairer society that gives parents flexibility to choose how they share care for their child in the first year after birth.
It is already illegal to sack a woman because she is pregnant or on maternity leave, but once the Bill is passed, anyone taking a total leave of six months or less over the period will be legally entitled to return to the same job.
However, alongside this fairness for mothers and equality for fathers, there must be careful consideration as to the impact all this will have on jobs and those who employ us, especially SMEs. I am sure employers will be relieved to hear that, although they will have to agree to a proposed pattern of time off, they will still retain the right to insist it be confined to a continuous block, with no more than two subsequent changes.
As someone who did choose to leave a successful and lucrative career in order to pursue what I believe is an equally successful role – that of bringing up the next generation – I sometimes wish the emphasis would occasionally switch to how crucial this aspect of the argument is, regardless of whether Mum or Dad takes lead role.
All four of my children are now happily fulfilling their professional ambitions and making a meaningful contribution to society – surely this is also an important part of the discussion we should be having.
Full information on the progress of the Bill and its contents can be found at the end of the Silent Taboos of Working Mums article here.