Plans to give fathers six months paternity leave have been shelved by the government to help employers during the recession.
The proposal, announced in 2005, was set to be introduced this year to allow mothers and fathers to share a year of parental leave, with fathers able to take six months leave after the mother’s first six months.
Aimed at helping women get back to work, the proposal was strongly criticised by business groups as being too costly and an administrative headache.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said plans to introduce the rights this year were now on hold.
The spokesman told the Daily Telegraph: “We have not yet announced a date for extending maternity and paternity rights. We are continuing to review the appropriateness of all new regulations due to come into force in the current economic climate. It is only right that in tough economic times we look afresh at the costs and benefits of new regulations.”
But Katherine Rake, director of the women’s campaign group Fawcett Society, criticised the delay.
She said: “It looks like Peter Mandelson is undermining the equalities agenda again. He cannot use the recession as an excuse to roll back hard-won commitments to mums and dads.”
Under the current legislation, fathers are entitled to just two weeks’ paternity leave to be taken just after the baby is born.
In March the Equality and Human Rights Commission called for greater parity between maternity and paternity leave to be introduced by 2020.
The Commission urged the government to offer fathers 90% pay for their initial two weeks of leave at the birth of their child, and for parents to be given four months leave after the mother’s initial six months leave, which either parent can take.