28/02/2005

Labour announces maternity changes

The government have announced plans to offer working mothers an extra three months maternity leave.

The new measures, which would extend maternity leave from six to nine months, would give mothers an extra £1,400, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced.

The measures are part of a series of 'family friendly' proposals, which include plans to allow mothers to 'transfer' some of their maternity leave and pay to fathers; extension of flexible working hours to carers of adults and parents of older children. Plans to help employers, by giving them greater certainty about employees return to work plans and simplification of maternity leave and pay administration are also included in the new proposals.

Ms Hewitt said: "It's not the job of government to tell mothers, or fathers, how to live their lives, but it is our job to give them more choices and more support so they can give their children the best start in life. Family and working life is changing. It's no longer the case that dad works while mum stays at home. Today, often both parents have to work and greater flexibility is needed. Helping hard working parents give their children the best start and give carers greater help is not only good for families but is good news for our economic growth and prosperity.

The 2003 Employment Bill has already introduced paid paternity leave, increased maternity pay, extended maternity leave (of up to a year for most mothers), as well as a new right for fathers and mothers to request flexible working hours.

Last week, the Liberal Democrats announced plans to offer new mothers a Maternity Income Guarantee, equivalent to the minimum wage of £170 per week for the six months after the birth of their first child.

The Conservatives are expected to announce their proposals closer to the election, which is predicted to be called for May 5.

(KMcA/SP)

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