The Ministry for Equality had previously announced it is looking at introducing statutory paternity and/or parental leave as one of its latest ventures in advancing equality and challenging gender stereotypes.
The Ministry has now said the work on this subject is at an advanced stage.
Currently, a woman can apply for statutory maternity leave, and if not paid by her employer during the period of absence from work, apply for a maternity allowance. The Ministry for Equality is looking at the mechanism to make this option, save for the initial statutory two weeks, to be made available to be shared with the father.
There are various stakeholder departments within the Government that currently process maternity leave. The Ministry for Equality, which is spearheading this, has set up a working group and has had various technical meetings with these departments to understand the logistics involved in order to explore the best way of giving this operational effect.
A consultation paper is being finalised after research on the subject having been undertaken by the Ministry for Equality. The consultation paper will propose changes to maternity leave to explore the options of paternity or parental leave which will be undertaken and how. The consultation process will include all stakeholders including the private sector through the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses as well as consulting with the Trades Unions.
Minister for Equality, Samantha Sacramento MP said “Traditionally, women disproportionately take the majority of the responsibility of childcare. This is one of the contributors to the gender pay gap, where the gap widens around the age that most women have children. Furthermore, it is important that fathers play a more active role in childcare from an early age and we wish to make the rights that are available to mothers equitable with fathers so that fathers and effectively give couples more flexibility at an important time in the family’s life to choose who looks after the children. Introducing parental leave would also benefit those in same sex relationships.
The Government is clear, we must move away from maternity leave and progress to parental leave. Our consultation will be on how. The preparatory work done in this by my team is at an advanced stage and I look forward to receiving the final draft of the proposed consultation paper from the working group so that the process can commence.”