The consultation, launched by outgoing prime minister Theresa May (pictured), aims to review existing parental leave benefits, proposing amendments that ensure these leave arrangements better reflect modern society and families’ desires to share childcare more equally.
Theresa May, prime minister, said: “The experience of parenting has changed almost beyond recognition over the past 40 years, with fathers wanting to share caring responsibilities more equally from the outset.
“In introducing shared parental leave, we have taken significant steps to support parents to do this, but all too often it is still mothers, not fathers, who shoulder the burden of childcare. It is clear that we need to do more, and that’s why today we have launched a consultation calling for views on how we can improve the current system.”
To help achieve this, the government suggests the implementation of a new neonatal leave and pay entitlement for parents of premature and unwell babies that need to spend a prolonged period in neonatal care after birth. The new neonatal leave, applicable for mothers, fathers and partners, would enable parents to receive one week of leave and pay for every week that their baby is in hospital. This strives to prevent fathers and partners having to take annual or unpaid leave if their child is kept in neonatal care beyond their paternity leave period.
The consultation further questions how statutory paternity leave and shared parental leave could be improved.
May continued: “We also want to look at further specific support for parents who are already dealing with the unimaginable stress of their babies needing special neonatal care. Parents have more than enough on their plates without worrying about their parental leave running out and having to return to work before their precious newborn comes home.
“That’s not fair and it’s not right. So, we’re also proposing a new neonatal leave and pay entitlement to make this time a bit easier for parents whose babies need to spend a prolonged period in neonatal care.”
Penny Mordaunt, minister for women and equalities, added: “Shared parental leave is hugely advantageous for both men and women and forms a key part of the government’s equalities agenda. It allows men to spend more time with their child, helping them to develop that paternal bond, and provides women with vital support at home during such an important time in their child’s life.
“This announcement is another step in the right direction, towards giving parents even more choice about how they manage work and parenting responsibilities. Fathers should not have to rely on annual and unpaid leave if they want to be involved in the first months of their child’s life.”