Maternity leave is the most commonly used term when referring to time taken off after the birth of a child; note the emphasis on the mother. In the U.K, when it comes to maternity leave and switching from a full time role to a part time, it is mainly women whose responsibility it is deemed. A largely assumed part of a women’s role is multi-tasking, juggling and balancing between work and a personal life. However it takes to two people’s involvement for a child to be conceived and so it should take two people’s involvement to raise a child; responsibility should be shared. This is a point of view it seems Nick Clegg is synonymous with, Clegg recently announced plans for parents to be able to split maternity leave between them.
A key development is the ratio being decided by the parents, rather than employers. 9 months of the maternity leave will be paid at the current statutory rate, the rest of the leave unpaid. This would move the U.K towards a structure similar to that of Sweden where paternity leave and maternity leave are openly offered. With the strive for more women in higher positions of power, this is a substantial development offering women the ability to take less time off and share the responsibility with fathers.
Furthermore, Clegg also announced plans for all employees regardless of child status, to be able to demand flexible working hours. This is meant to enable grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members to be able to aid with childcare, sharing the responsibility. Although, with employers only being required to consider the request and not necessarily grant it, there is still room for improvement. Previously only parents with children could request flexible working hours, burdening single parents. However, the new rules will enable other members of the family to help out, who previously under the old guidelines had no employment statutes upon to request such hours, being dependent on the good nature of employers for such grants. The plan will come into action in 2015.
In relation, the government also has plans to deregulate childcare, believing that the proportion of those leaving the childcare career are due to over regulation. However, this could allow irresponsible and ill equipped individuals to slip into childcare. Many are unsettled by this new plan, it all remains to be seen whether or not this will positively or negatively impact the childcare industry.
Lastly, Maria Miller, Minister for Women and Equalities, revealed plans to funnel £2 million in to new childcare businesses. The money will be allocated depending on the sixe of the business, with sums ranging from £250-£500. The money is meant to help with certification and legal and training fees. This is in response to Nick Clegg’s promise to decrease childcare fees.