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Flexible Parental Leave

Volume 517: debated on Thursday 28 October 2010

The Government are committed to encouraging shared parenting and making the workplace more family friendly. We will launch a consultation in due course on the design of a new system of flexible shared parental leave.

There is a Brussels-inspired proposal to hike maternity pay to full pay for the first 20 weeks at a cost of £2.5 billion, according to the British Chambers of Commerce, which would be unaffordable for the British taxpayer and for small and medium-sized businesses. Given that we already have one of the best maternity rights regimes in Europe, will the Secretary of State tell Brussels where to get off and begin to repatriate employment and social legislation back to this place?

I share my hon. Friend’s disappointment at the outcome of the first reading vote in the European Parliament. The measures that have been put forward are highly regressive and we do not support them. They would cost the UK at least £2.4 billion a year.

It is desirable for fathers to be able to play a much larger role in the lives of their young children. However, the Government also need to take into account and support very small businesses, which may face pressures on their work force if key personnel have flexible time off. What discussions has the Minister had with the business community on the implementation of flexible parental leave?

As my hon. Friend may be aware, one in seven working people now has a caring responsibility and the issue of balancing work and family life is of growing importance. The Government are committed to a strong culture of regulatory restraint so, in looking at the introduction of shared parental leave, we will consult fully with businesses, small, medium and large.