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EDITIONS
Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Get set for baby benefits boost
Babies
Parents of babies conceived from Friday may benefit
Couples who start trying for a baby at the end of this week could be the first to qualify for extra maternity - and paternity - benefits.

Babies born after April 6 next year will qualify their parents for the new rights.

On that date, paid and unpaid maternity leave will be extended to 26 weeks - and the standard rate of maternity pay will rise from 62 to 100 a week.


We've waited a long time for paid paternity leave to be fact rather than fantasy

Tom Beardshaw, Fathers Direct
And their partners will, for the first time, be entitled to two weeks' paid paternity leave at 100 a week.

However, families whose new addition arrives even a few days before that date will miss out.

Women who conceive on Friday could expect to give birth on April 6 next year.

'It's a big night'

Tom Beardshaw, campaigns manager of the charity Fathers Direct, said: "Friday is a big night for Britain.

"Would-be dads can go to bed knowing that they can claim two weeks paid paternity leave, should their partners conceive.

"Those two weeks can make a huge difference in supporting a new mother, bonding with a new baby and learning the skills of fatherhood."

"We've waited a long time for paid paternity leave to be fact rather than fantasy."

Employers will also have a legal duty to consider requests for flexible working from parents with children under six under the Employment Bill, which received Royal Assent on Tuesday.

Premature disappointment

Julie Mellor, who chairs the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "If you're planning on trying for a baby, Friday is the time to start.

"From April next year mums will get better maternity pay and a longer period of maternity leave, dads will have the right to spend two weeks at home with their new baby, and all parents of young children will be in a stronger position if they want to change their working hours."

However, to be on the safe side, most couples might want to hold back for a couple more weeks - a significant percentage of babies pop out a little prematurely.

See also:

18 Apr 02 | Forum
20 Mar 02 | UK Politics
18 Feb 02 | Business
29 Aug 01 | Business
19 Jun 01 | Talking Point
08 Mar 01 | UK
07 Mar 01 | Budget 2001
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