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Warning over parental leave changes

An employment law expert has warned employers to be aware of changes to the rules on parental leave which have now been announced in detail.

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, has unveiled the plans which will allow fathers to share 12 months of their partner’s leave after the birth of a child.

The proposals were announced last year, but have only now been revealed in detail after negotiations by the Coalition Government.

The plans will start in April 2015 and aim to both help women back to the workplace, and men to be more involved in caring for their children at a young age.

Currently mothers and fathers can share some of the 52 weeks’ leave, with a father allowed to take up to six months after the child is 20 weeks old.

Once the changes are implemented, other than the first two weeks of maternity leave, saved solely for the mother, the remaining leave can be shared between the parents.

Clare Howarth, Employment solicitor in Napthens’ East Lancashire office, said: “The new laws will mean big changes for many employers.

“For instance, currently the leave periods can only be taken in single blocks. In the proposals, new parents can inform their employers how they intend to share the leave at least eight weeks before it begins, and they can change the plans twice meaning employers will need to be very organised and flexible.

“Employers will be able to agree to any proposed patterns of leave, which may be open for argument if they cannot be agreed.

“It’s important to understand the impact of the changes and what they will mean for a business.”