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Liberal Democrats pledge to extend shared parental leave and free childcare

The Liberal Democrats have pledged in their manifesto to extend shared parental leave and free childcare for working families.

The party claims it will expand shared parental leave, which has just come into force, introducing an extra ‘use it or lose it’ month for fathers to encourage them to take time off.

It has also promised to extend free childcare to all two-year-olds in working families, and says it will commit to providing 20 hours of free childcare a week for all two- to four-year-olds.

Other family-friendly pledges include consulting on introducing five days’ paid ‘care leave’ for workers who are also full-time carers.

Party leader Nick Clegg called the manifesto a blueprint for a “stronger economy and fairer society”.

The manifesto further includes the following HR and employment-related pledges:

  • Working with the Low Pay Commission on raising the national minimum wage without damaging job creation. It would also set targets for government departments and agencies to pay the Living Wage.
  • Delivering a “reformed and improved” Work Programme, devolved regionally to make sure training and support are tailored to local job opportunities. The party would also improve incentives for Jobcentre staff and Work Programme providers.
  • Connecting local health services with back-to-work support to help people back into work
  • Increasing the personal tax-free allowance to “at least” £12,500
  • Doubling the number of businesses taking on apprentices
  • Making it mandatory for companies with more than 250 employees to publish information on their gender pay gap
  • By 2020, requiring large companies to publish data on how many workers they are paying less than the Living Wage
  • Clamping down on “unfair” pensions charges and encouraging people to save more by nudging them to increase their pensions contributions as their earnings increase. The party would also give people “more freedoms” around their pensions, although these freedoms are as yet unspecified.

Responding to the Liberal Democrats' plans to increase free childcare, CBI director general John Cridland said: “Extending childcare provision where affordable is a common-sense approach to helping more working parents back into the workplace.”

On the plans to introduce extra paid leave for carers, he added: “More support for carers to continue to progress in their career while looking after a loved one is a welcome principle. From experience a voluntary approach often works best, with businesses already working hard to offer the flexibility employees need.”