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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 May 2007, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Parents to share new baby leave
By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Baby's hand
Parents may soon be able to decide which of them gets the second six months of paid leave after a baby is born.

By April 2009 new mums should be able to take 12 months paid leave. But the Government says if a mother wants less the father could take it instead.

He would be paid by his employer and businesses fear that could cause administrative problems.

But the Government says the Revenue would monitor the amounts paid.

Under current laws a mother gets twelve months maternity leave but only the first nine months is paid - six weeks at 90% of her pay and the remaining 33 weeks at a flat rate 112.75 (or 90% of her pay if that is less).

12 months pay

The government plans to extend that period of flat-rate pay to the end of the 12 months leave. It hopes to introduce that change from April 2009.

The key concern is who is in charge of communicating to the two employers.
Stephen Alambritis, FSB

If a mother decides to take less time off, the government plans to let the father take the balance as paid paternity leave at the same flat-rate pay. At the moment fathers get up to two weeks paid paternity leave.

Speaking on Radio 4's Money Box Programme Stephen Alambritis of the Federation of Small Businesses said his members were not against extending family friendly policies but he was concerned about how the scheme would work.

"The key concern is who is in charge of communicating to the two employers if the mother has taken the six months or more than the six months and if the father is entitled to say another three months. It can be open to fraud and abuse.

Government agency

"We urge the government to find some middle person, perhaps a government agency rather than leave two employers fumbling in the dark about who has taken what leave and when."

We don't want to clutter employers with additional red tape.
Jim Fitzpatrick MP

But Jim Fitzpatrick, the Minster at the Department of Trade and Industry in charge of the new policy gave that idea short shrift.

"I think you then get a horrendously extensive bureaucratic system that would complicate matters. We don't want to clutter employers with additional red tape. We want to make it as simple as possible and let parents determine who takes time off."

And he said maternity pay would be monitored as it is now and it may be that employers would have to trust the word of parents.

"There will always be some people who work the system to their own personal advantage, sometimes selfishly, sometimes fraudulently. But self-certification is an option and we are very keen to hear employers' views on that.

The new system will apply equally to adoptive parents and to same sex couples.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 1204 BST.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 2102 BST.



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