so today was the day of the queens speech. hurrah! were you all as excited about it as the next person? good god the lord above, really is that it? will it change the world for anyone?


so maternity leave will now become flexible parental leave. however the detail of this appears a little vague to what it actually will transpire to be.

don’t get me wrong i am completely up for gender neutral and transferable paternal leave. i strongly believe that this is something that you should be able to share if you choose to do so and i think this would be a huge step forward for working mothers, as businesses will be forced to become more accommodating to a flexible family working pattern rather than just focusing on the mothers. you take the choice together to have a child (well mainly) so therefore you should be able to choose to share the paternal leave and share your working hours too.

what is vague is what will change from the current law. at the moment by law your employer needs to presume that a mother will take her full statutory leave, 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. it has been spoken about today that this presumption is to be reduced to 18 weeks, at which point you can either request for more leave or transfer leave to your partner. but nothing has been said about whether the full statutory will still be 52 weeks but the split will moved from the 26/26 to 18/34? so i guess until these details are clear, i will hold off the jumping up and down and getting all a bit shouty and stabby.

now i did return to work when ronnie was 18 weeks old, and currently the law actually allows you return at 2 weeks. this is not something that i would ever recommend to friend or foe, it was purely something that as a family we needed to do, due to our circumstance. i started to settle ronnie into full-time nursery a number of weeks prior to my return to work at 16 weeks and thankful everything actually worked out pretty well. as a family though we were very nearly broken. if at the time, there could have been an opportunity that we could have transferred the parental leave over to oliver, we would have grasped it with both hands. i truly believe that our lives for the first 6 months to a year of ronnies life would have been hugely HUGELY different.

this bill has potential, but the vagueness is massively worrying. if they get it right by actually keeping the full 52 weeks still as statutory leave, but from the 18 weeks point you can choose to switch if you so wish, then great. my worry is however, that pressure may then be put on mums all to return to work at 18 weeks, when frankly you are simply not ready for it. forcing mothers back to work at 18 weeks, may mean also mean that many valuable workers just don’t end up returning at all through fear of returning to work at such an early stage. this will in turn leave many talented mothers out of the work force for too long and therefore making it even more difficult for them to return.

if they really want to get it right, this needs to be backed up with reforms on flexible working hours, not just the right to ask and get turned down, but real binding legislation to allow working parents realistic flexible working hours. a great example were a couple at ronnies nursery who both worked full-time but both employers allowed them to work flexi time. mum went in early doors and dad did the nursery run in the morning. daddy and daughter time. mum then left early and did the nursery run in the evening. mummy and daughter time. dad worked a little later in the evening but still home in time for bed time. family time. both parents were happy, both employers were happy, that i believe is what you would call a win win situation. so why can’t we have more of this around?

flexi paternal leave and flexi working hours for parents…… we can all dream can’t we?


  1. May 9, 2012 / 21:22

    Cutting a woman’s maternity leave surely is also discouraging breastfeeding? I gave up at 8 months in preperation of returning to work but to give up at 3 months would have been such a shame! I think as long as they make it all very adaptable it is a great change as everyone has very different situations. Interested in finding out more!

    • hpmcq
      May 9, 2012 / 21:25

      they’ve got a real opportunity here, will they mess it all up?

  2. May 10, 2012 / 07:59

    I live in the UK but don’t work in a UK company so I have actually no idea about maternity leave situation here – sounds dire though 😐 With my 1st son I lived in Australia and had 6 weeks paid leave and then up to a year unpaid leave. With my 2nd son here, I had a much much better deal staying home for 11 months… Parents need as much time as possible, I think, to stay at home with their babies, I have seen too many of my American friends (and their entire extended families) suffer severely because there they have to return to work after 8 weeks. It’s probably tough for any government to work these things out but some countries do manage to prioritise children and families (Scandinavia) and they’re doing just fine so it must be possible…

    • hpmcq
      May 10, 2012 / 19:33

      the pressure of the working environment in general doesn’t sound fantastic in the US. a colleague was telling me today that a lot of work places have milk pumping stations so that the working mums have somewhere to express, i’m not really sure how i feel about that!!

  3. May 13, 2012 / 14:33

    So many companies completely fail to see the benefit to them of offering flexible working but it has such a huge impact of staff retention and even productivity that generally once they try it with one member of staff they never go back.

    I’ve been able to compress my full time hours into 4 days so I now work 8-6 Tuesday to Friday and have Monday off (on the understanding that I still check my email and try and respond to anything urgent) which means I can save 20% on our childcare costs and have more time with the boys. It also means I’m prepared to go that extra mile for my employer when needed and I’m unlikely to leave unless I get a really good offer. Win-win.

    I really like the idea of having the option to share parental leave but I worry that it will really just lead to pressure for both parents to be back at work sooner. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it gets implemented.

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