EHRC parental leave plans divide equality campaigners

Equality campaigners and leading business groups have delivered a lukewarm response to new parental leave proposals aimed at generating greater parity between entitlements for mothers and fathers.

In its Working Better report, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called on the government to rethink current parental leave arrangements.

By 2020, fathers should be entitled to two weeks’ leave at 90% of their salary and mothers 26 weeks on 90% pay, rather than the current six weeks.

Four months of parental leave should be available for either parent to take after the mother’s initial six months, with at least eight of those weeks at 90% pay, the equality watchdog urged.

The government will review the recommendations, although it has expressed concern at the “considerable costs” attachedto introducing the proposals – £5.3bn on top of the current £2.1bn.

However, the 2010 general election could put more pressure on ministers to increase the amount of employers’ paternity pay to encourage more fathers to take responsibility for childcare.

But Sarah Jackson, chief executive of campaigners Working Families, told Personnel Today that recommendations would not encourage parents to split childcare evenly.

David Bartlett, acting chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute, said while the proposals were “a big step in the right direction”, leave provisions should be made available until a child was 14 to help parents spend time with their children through key development phases.

Fathers should also be allowed to take their two-week allowance piecemeal.

“It’s very clear that fathers want to take more leave than they do and the thing that is stopping them is the low pay,” he said.

Meanwhile Katja Hall, the CBI’s director of HR policy, said the recommendations were “unaffordable” and “would cause an administrative headache”for companies.She said HR functions would be forced to overhaul pay systems three timesover a 10-year period, and establish communication links between the mother’s and the father’s employers.

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