Work and Families Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 25th April 2006.

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Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills 5:00 pm, 25th April 2006

My Lords, I support this amendment as I did in Grand Committee—not because I go along with the dire warnings of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, about the possibility of fraud. That was certainly the main thrust of her argument, if not the only argument. The likelihood of fraudulent claims over additional paternity leave is quite low. Few fathers entitled to such leave are going to be earning less than £108.85 per week, so they will have little interest in making such a fraudulent claim.

However, I certainly go along with the noble Baroness' claim that Amendment No. 3 provides a system which benefits from being beautifully simple—her actual words were "the essence of simplicity". I doubt whether employers will fulfil their part of the system that the Government are proposing in the Bill. There is currently a requirement on employers to write to the mother within 28 days of receiving notice of the date that she wishes to start maternity leave, and the employer's letter should state the date she is due back at work. Working Families tells me that many callers to its helpline do not receive such a letter and therefore are uncertain about the date of their expected return to work. If employers cannot even write to their own employees about such a crucial matter as the date when they should be returning to work, it certainly raises questions whether they will certify a statement that will affect the father, who is unlikely to be their own employee.

For those reasons—the greater simplicity and the fact that the measure would not rely on the employer and would be even less of a burden on them—I am very supportive of the amendment.