The thinking is that, despite paternity leave reforms last year, employment rights in this area entrench the assumption that the mother should be the primary carer early in a child's life. The new scheme is likely to entail the mother taking 18 weeks' leave at or around the birth, with the remainder of the current 52-week maternity leave period being reclassified as 'parental leave' to be taken flexibly by either parent.
If this goes through, it will represent a major legislative nod towards greater equity in childcare, but there will still be a practical disincentive for would-be stay-at-home dads. Any leave they take under the proposed regime would be paid at a flat weekly rate, capped at £135.45, or else unpaid.
This is unlikely to be financially attractive, except where the mother is the major earner.
Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors, email: firstname.lastname@example.org