Government to extend statutory paternity leave to six months

The government has today confirmed plans to give new fathers the right to take up to six months’ paternity leave. Maternity pay will also increase to nine months, under the Work and Families Bill.

The Department of Trade and Industry said up to 440,000 fathers could benefit from the proposal, which will now go out to consultation.

Trade and industry secretary Alan Johnson said: “Today’s bill delivers on our commitment to help working parents balance the demands of their job with caring for their children by introducing a modern framework of rights and responsibilities that offers real choice and flexibility.

“Increasingly fathers want to play a more active role in bringing up their children so we will help them take time off when the mother returns to work by introducing a new right to paternity leave.”

The proposals have been opposed by business groups, but Johnson said he would introduce a number of proposals to make it easier for employers to deal with workers taking time off.

The government also announced the right to request flexible working, currently limited to parents of young children, will be extended to carers from April 2007.

In addition, the government wants to introduce so called ‘keeping in touch days’ so that women on maternity leave can go into work for a few days without losing their statutory pay.

The period of notice for returning to work from maternity leave will be extended to two months.

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