Bill boosts maternity and paternity payments

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Working parents were given a boost yesterday in the shape of increased maternity and paternity leave under measures announced in the Work and Families Bill.

From April 2007, paid maternity leave will be extended to nine months, and fathers will be able to take six months’ paternity leave – three of which will be paid if the mother returns to work after six months. Parents will receive £106 per week.

Trade and Industry secretary Alan Johnson said the bill “delivers on our commitment to help working parents balance the demands of their job with caring for their children by introducing a modern framework of rights and responsibilities that offers real choice and flexibility”.

The child care campaigning charity the Daycare Trust welcomed the bill, and the paternity leave proposals in particular, which it said will give families greater flexibility over how they manage their work and caring responsibilities when children are very young.

However, it called on the government to ensure maternity and paternity pay was high enough to stop families slipping into poverty.

“To give parents greater choice in the crucial first year, payment for both maternity and paternity leave should be at 90 per cent of earnings for the first six weeks and then at minimum wage levels for the rest of leave,” said Daniela Reale, the charity’s policy and campaigns manager.

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