The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has extended a "cautious welcome" to the Government's proposals to overhaul the maternity leave system.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today outlined the plans, which were originally proposed by the previous Government. Under these plans, a father will be able take any remaining unpaid maternity leave should his partner choose to return to work early.
Describing current paternity leave rules as "Edwardian", Clegg added that the Government was planning to consult on a "properly flexible" system of shared parental leave to be introduced in 2015.
Clegg also pledged to work closely with business to ensure that any changes are sustainable and affordable.
Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, responded to the proposals by pointing to the potential uncertainty arising from the changes: "We will wait to see the detail of how employers will be affected and clearly there will be problems extending the existing entitlement to paternity leave in a way that doesn't increase uncertainty for employers.
"Take-up of additional paternity leave by fathers will depend partly on the level of paternity pay, and partly on changing social attitudes. The number of people taking advantage of existing paternity leave is low, so the Deputy Prime Minister is right to say we need an accompanying culture shift to drive take-up."
Emmott added that the proposals should help to reduce discrimination, saying: "If men and women have similar entitlements to leave following the birth of a child, this should go a long way to relieving employers of these concerns. And this can only reduce the likelihood that women will be discriminated against when they apply for jobs, or for promotion.
"The broad direction of travel is right - the UK needs to move towards a system of parental leave which gives mothers and fathers similar opportunities to take responsibility for childcare," he concluded.
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