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Should Families be able to Choose Who’s Left Holding the Baby?

In late November Nick Clegg announced plans which will enable new mothers and fathers to share leave - meaning men will be able to take almost a year off work.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s view is that the notion that women should stay at home to look after young children is ’an old fashioned assumption and Edwardian’. The proposals have been met with opposition from the coalition and have split the business community.

The new plans will mean that from April 2015, parents whom both work will be able to share 52 weeks of leave. New mothers will have to take the first two weeks, which are deemed as important to recovery and bonding with their baby. The following 50 weeks can then be split between the parents as they see fit and could run concurrently or opt for one to take a period of time off and then the other.

Will this work?

There are a number of elements at play here, not only the impact this may have in the workplace but also moving the cultural assumptions that women are the primary care-givers. We can all assume that there will be teething problems but effective change doesn’t happen without affecting the status quo.

A couple of days after the announcement I was working with the Executive Committee of a global company in London. The aim of our time together was to identify the key strategic issues for their company over the coming years and how creating an inclusive and diverse working environment could support that.  Although knowing this is an important issue the senior male leaders had been somewhat detached from the diversity agenda until now... when we talked about the real possibility that their male colleagues could come into their office at any time and announce they were planning to take 30 weeks off for parental leave. Suddenly, this was an issue that could really impact them and had to be taken seriously!

For me, Nick Clegg’s announcement does two things... firstly, it moves the care discussion from one that predominately affects women to one that can have an impact on anyone in the workplace. Secondly, it gives couples the flexibility and choice to decide how they would like to care for their child and make it work for their personal circumstances.

Undoubtedly, to implement the change will take some time and won't be easy. However, I’m sure we will look back at this in ten years time and wonder what all the fuss was about.

If you would like to discuss the impact this could have on your company and how to implement the change please contact info@charlottesweeney.com.


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