Nick Clegg has outlined plans for fathers to be given up to ten months of paid paternity leave.
Clegg, supported by David Cameron has condemned ‘Edwardian’ attitudes to childcare and traditional family roles.
Almost all of the existing 12 months of maternity leave will be allowed to divide between parents, with room for time to be split into stretches as short as a few weeks.
Clegg, who is a father of three himself, has often spoken of his wish to be a hands-on father. He claims it is ‘madness’ that men are denied the opportunity to stay at home to look after their children while mothers go back to work.
Under current laws, women are entitled to six weeks of maternity leave whilst still receiving 90% of their pay, followed by 33 weeks of statutory maternity pay of £125 a week, allowing in total to remain off work for up to a year. Men are allowed two weeks of paternity leave, on statutory pay.
A cause for celebration for many, but business leaders last night described the plans as a ‘complete nightmare’.
Andrew Cave of the Federation of Small Businesses, said “this is the wrong measure at the wrong time.
“The Government says it wants businesses to take on more staff but this sort of thing just throws up more obstacles. Maternity leave is already the most complex aspect of employment law for many businesses and this risks making it a complete nightmare.
“Businesses will have to co-ordinate with other employers to work out whether parents have used up their allowance – it is a complete minefield.”
In response to the criticism, the Deputy Prime Minister argues “these rules patronise women and marginalise men. They’re based on a view of life in which mothers stay at home and fathers are the only breadwinners.
“That’s an Edwardian system that has no place in 21st century Britain.”
The proposals will not be introduced un till 2015.