Duncan Lewis

Family Law

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The new laws on maternity benefits to be announced at the month end by the prime minister

Date: (12 October 2012)    |    

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The prime minister and his deputy are going to announce the new laws on allowing new fathers to share maternity leave and pays with mothers.
Cameron and Nick Clegg would confirm this later in the month after declaring that they have overcome any opposition in the Cabinet to implement their pledge of flexible parental leave.
Under the plans, fathers will be able to take time off work and claim state benefits throughout most of the first year of their baby’s life, if the mother returns to employment.
The mother will be able to return to work after just a fortnight.
However, the scheme would be delayed until October 2015 because some members of the Cabinet believed the scheme was anti-business.
The plans were blocked initially in Cabinet by Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, and Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister. Theresa May, the Home Secretary and Mr Clegg were keen to push ahead.
The Business Secretary, Vince Cable was opposed to the plans originally saying it would create concerns as anti-business.
To address fears from women’s charities, mothers will still receive the assistance automatically unless they apply to transfer it to their partners.
It is understood that mothers will only be required to take the first fortnight of leave after giving birth, for health reasons, after which fathers can take the paid time off work.
Official figures show that 420,000 families every year could benefit from the proposal, but estimates from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills predict that just 13,500 couples at most would find it economically beneficial to switch the allowance from mother to father.
The feasibility of the scheme is being conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions to study on how it will police the payment to ensure parents do not claim simultaneously. New IT system would cost around £22?million.
The scheme will be brought forward in 'early 2013' in a Children and Families Bill to be presented to Parliament.
Under the current system, post natal mothers get 90 percent of their earnings for the first six weeks which they are legally entitled to.
After which they are entitled to receive a maternity allowance, equivalent to either 90 per cent of earnings or £135.45 a week, whichever is on the lower side, for an additional 33 weeks. Some employers offer more generous terms.
Fathers are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave and mothers can transfer their leave to their partners after the first six months.
The new system will mean that either the mother or father can claim parental leave and the allowance after two weeks.
It was decided to keep the current default system of assistance being given to women. There were also other safeguards to prevent vulnerable mothers, or those in families which do not function well, from losing their entitlements. Absent fathers are not entitled to the benefit.