Major overhaul of paternity leave will give dads more time off, reports suggest

From October 2015, under new Government plans, new dads might be able to take 12 months leave if their partner goes back to work within two weeks, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Fathers will be able to claim time off under "flexible parental leave" if the mother is the family's main breadwinner, the newspaper suggests.

Under the proposals, after two weeks the mother would return to work and transfer her leave to her partner.

Although the scheme will not start until October 2015, because of a Cabinet dispute over fears that the plans will have a negative impact on small businesses, it will be legislated for next year, the paper reported.

A Government source told the publication that the changes will be "introduced slowly and with great care" to ensure they do not "undermine business during the difficult economic times".

"But it was a Coalition pledge and it is important to both the Prime Minister and the Liberal Democrats that both parents should be supported to spend time with their new children," the source added.

Currently, for the first six weeks after birth, mothers are legally entitled to 90% of their earnings. Once these six weeks have passed they receive a maternity allowance, which is the lowest of either 90% of their earnings or 134.45 per week for 33 weeks.

Fathers are currently entitled to just two weeks paid paternity leave, but mothers can transfer their remaining leave to the father after the first six months.

Employers can offer more generous terms than this if they wish.

Under the new system, either the mother or the father could stay off work and claim the maternity allowance after the first two weeks.

The Government source said: "This has taken a long time to develop as the system has to be robust enough to prevent fraud, with both parents claiming.

"It was decided to keep the current default system of assistance being given to women. There are also other safeguards to prevent vulnerable mothers, or those in families which do not function well, from losing their entitlements. Absent fathers will not benefit."

Copyright Press Association 2012