Maternity leave is to be extended to one year under new measures unveiled today by the Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers.
The announcement is part of the Government’s response to its work and parents green paper and the changes include a three-month extension of unpaid maternity leave which means new mothers can take 12 months in total off work.
The DTI has also revised the framework for maternity pay and leave regulations for both employers and employees.
Expectant mums will have to give their employers greater notice of when they intend to start and return from their maternity leave. The notice period is being increased from three to four weeks.
A new interactive website will give working mothers tailored information on their maternity leave and pay entitlements at the touch of a button.
Byers said, “With more women in work it is vital to put in place measures that allow working mothers to combine being a good parent with holding down a job.
“The right to take a year’s maternity leave will make a real difference to a child’s first year of life. Mothers want to be able to spend more time with their baby and a longer period of leave helps them to be better prepared when they do come back to work.”
Mothers are currently entitled to18 weeks paid maternity leave, with the first six weeks being paid at 90per cent of average weekly earnings and the remaining 12 weeks paid at a flat rate of £60.20 a week.
The Government announced in the budget that from April 2002 the flat rate will increase to £75 and in 2003 there will be further rise to £100 as well as an extension to the length of time this rate is paid from 18 weeks to 26 weeks.