Employers are likely to be hit hard by new government plans to support working parents outlined in today’s green paper.
It proposes giving both parents the right to work reduced hours as long as they want after the maternity period ends.
Stephen Byers, Trade and Industry Secretary, said they were considering an opt out clause for some companies. But he warned that: "This is about a balanced approach. The status quo is not an option - things have got to change."
The green paper, which will be implemented shortly after the end of the consultation in March, proposes to lengthen paid maternity leave, from 18 weeks to six months and allow women up to a further six months unpaid leave. Unpaid leave can be shared between parents. The flat rate of maternity, currently £60.20 per week, will rise although no figures are yet available.
The deal will cost employers £8 million to implement plus up to £18 million for cover for each extra week’s leave a woman takes.
By Kathy Watson