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Prime Minister calls for greater equality in parental leave

Written by: Emma Lunn
Theresa May has launched a consultation on parental leave entitlements and the introduction of Neonatal Leave and Pay for parents of premature and sick babies.

In one of her last acts as Prime Minister, May is pushing for fathers to have more time with newborns. She said the status quo is holding back women and reinforcing the gender pay gap. The consultation aims to challenge the assumption entrenched in parental leave entitlements that the mother must be the primary carer in the early stages of a child’s life.

The consultation asks questions about whether statutory paternity leave for fathers and same sex partners should be changed and for suggestions on ways in which the shared parental leave policy introduced in 2015 could be improved.

Neonatal Leave and Pay entitlement

There are also plans for a new “Neonatal Leave and Pay” entitlement, for parents of premature and sick babies who need to spend more time in hospital. About 100,000 babies in the UK are admitted to neonatal care every year following their birth.

Under the proposals mothers, fathers and partners would receive one week of Neonatal Leave and Pay for every week their baby is in hospital.

The new entitlement would mean fathers and partners will no longer need to rely on taking annual and unpaid leave if their child is in hospital for longer than their paternity leave period. It would also provide them with additional time at home with their child to make up for the time spent in hospital.

Improvements to the current system

May said: “The experience of parenting has changed almost beyond recognition over the past 40 years, with fathers wanting to share caring responsibilities more equally from the outset.

“In introducing shared parental leave, we have taken significant steps to support parents to do this, but all too often it is still mothers, not fathers, who shoulder the burden of childcare. It is clear that we need to do more and that’s why today we have launched a consultation calling for views on how we can improve the current system.

“We also want to look at further specific support for parents who are already dealing with the unimaginable stress of their babies needing special neonatal care. Parents have more than enough on their plates without worrying about their parental leave running out and having to return to work before their precious newborn comes home.”

Penny Mordaunt, minister for women and equalities, said: “Shared parental leave is hugely advantageous for both men and women and forms a key part of the government’s equalities agenda. It allows men to spend more time with their child, helping them to develop that paternal bond, and provides women with vital support at home during such an important time in their child’s life.

“This announcement is another step in the right direction, towards giving parents even more choice about how they manage work and parenting responsibilities. Fathers should not have to rely on annual and unpaid leave if they want to be involved in the first months of their child’s life.”

Parental leave information

The government says it also want to make sure potential parents have the information they need about their potential employers from the outset so they can make the choices that are right for them.

It’s consulting on whether employers should publish their leave and pay and flexible working policies and whether there should be a requirement for employers to consider advertising jobs as flexible.

Earlier this year parenting website Mumsnet called on large companies to publish their parental leave and pay policies so people don’t have to ask for the information when they apply for a new job.

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