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John Monks, TUC General Secretary
"Extra pressure on the Government to change tack"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Parental leave decision delay
Parents and child
Parents face a long wait for a ruling
The decision on whether the government wrongly excluded 2.7m working parents from its parental leave scheme has been referred to the European Court of Justice.

The TradesUnion Congress had sought a judicial review at the High Court over the implementation of last year's Parental Leave Regulations.

But with the case now being dealt with by the European courts, it could be two years before a judgment is reached.

A clear moral victory

John Monks, TUC general secretary

The TUC says more than two million parents of children already aged under five were excluded because the new rights applied to parents of children born after 15 December last year.

They will receive up to 13 weeks unpaid leave up until their child's fifth birthday.

In the High Court, Lord Bingham, the Lord Chief Justice, and Mr Justice Morison urged the European court to deal with the case as a matter of urgency.

Clarity sought

They said that if - "as we think" - Trade Secretary Stephen Byers may have acted unlawfully in the way he introduced the scheme, "the sooner this is made clear the better".

The TUC's general secretary, John Monks, told BBC News 24 that he regarded the judgement as a "clear moral victory" for the TUC and the UK's working families.

He said he would prefer that the government extended parent leave immediately "to the nearly three million working parents who have missed out".

Mr Monks said the UK should follow the example of the Irish Government, which had also tried to deny parental leave to existing parents but relented after the European Commission's advice that it was in the wrong.

'Waste of money'

Mr Monks said that if the UK government delayed, people who could presently qualify would be too old, while the cost of the case would be a waste of taxpayers' money.

The sticking point in the case is the wording of a clause in a European cross-industry agreement which says men and women are entitled to parental leave "on the grounds of the birth or adoption of a child, to enable them to take care of that child".

The government argued that parental leave rights were clearly related to an event - the birth of a child - and therefore applied only to the future.

The TUC's case, which was outlined last week by Cherie Booth QC in her last court appearance before the birth of her son, Leo, is that parental leave rights are not a substitute for maternity leave which is fixed by the child's birth.

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Blair baby: 'It's Jack or Chloe'
16 May 00 | UK Politics
Cherie Booth argues for paternity leave
28 Mar 00 | Talking Point
Should Tony Blair take paternity leave?
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