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Brown Boosts Deal for Parents


Chancellor Gordon Brown has unveiled a package of reforms to help get parents of young children back in the workplace.

Confirmed are further extensions to paid maternity leave from six to nine months by 2007 with the option to make it transferable between both parents. £285 million has been set aside to support this.

Rights already in place to request flexible working to older parents will be extended following consultation.

To support dual-income parents, the Government has promised to extend free nursery education to 15 hours a week and improve post school after care arrangements by setting aside resources to keep schools open between 8am and 6pm.

Brown has vowed to consult on extending the Child Trust Fund so that by the age of seven a further £250 will be added for every child and another £500 for the poorest.

Employers will also be able to offer employees, right up the income range, £50 a week extra for childcare free of tax or national insurance.

The Chancellor has also announced the creation of one million new childcare places by 2010.

Shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin poured scorn on the proposals saying: “Plans for childcare won’t make up for the lack of discipline in schools.”

The Chancellor's attempts to court the family vote were also attacked by CBI Director-General Digby Jones, who said: "There will be worries about the moves on family-friendly working. The constructive relationship between government and business on this issue could come under serious strain if ministers move too far too quickly."

Jones continued: "Having both parents share parental leave sounds fine in principle but who is going to police the system? Employers should not be responsible for finding out how much time each parent is entitled to. It is not fair for business to be blamed for intruding into people's private lives."

The CBI is concerned that while Government covers most of the cost of paternity and maternity pay, the burden of costs associated with administration, training and replacement are borne by business.

Simon Sweetman of the Federation of Small Business described the Chancellor's maternity leave proposals as "being taken with next year's election in mind" and said that "rights for mothers were coming in at too fast and furious a rate."


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