PLANS to allow parents to share a year’s paid maternity leave have been shelved by Lord Mandelson after complaints from businesses, as reported in The Sunday Times
Dads will be losing out on the chance of six months’ paid leave to look after a baby, allowing mothers to return to work early. Ministers also promised to extend paid maternity leave from nine to 12 months.
The plans were seen as a key plank of Labour’s family-friendly agenda, giving parents more flexibility on who looked after the children. They would also have allowed people in lesbian and gay civil partnerships to share maternity leave. The proposals were applauded by family groups and championed by the government’s equality ministers, including Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader. However, they were sharply criticised by small firms which complained that they would cost too much and create more red tape.
A spokesman for Mandelson’s business department said it was now reviewing the proposals and the plans to introduce the rights this year were on hold. “We have not yet announced a date for extending maternity and paternity rights,” he said. “We are continuing to review the appropriateness of all new regulations due to come into force in the current economic climate. It is only right that in tough economic times we look afresh at the costs and benefits of new regulations.”
The decision to shelve the plans was condemned by women’s and fathers’ groups. Fathers are now entitled to only two weeks’ paternity leave. Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for more women in public life, said: “It looks like Peter Mandelson is undermining the equalities agenda again. He cannot use the recession as an excuse to roll back hard-won commitments to mums and dads. They will be hugely disappointed if ministers fail to deliver their commitment to deliver more paternity leave for dads.”