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New deal for parents

The Fairness at Work White Paper proposes to introduce a raft of "family friendly" policies, including a right to three months' unpaid parental leave, which men and women can take at any point in the first eight years of their child's life. Employees will also be entitled to take unpaid time off for urgent family reasons.

These proposals have cost implications for schools, which will have to arrange cover for such absences.

The Government also plans to reduce the qualifying period for extended maternity leave from two years to one year. This will not affect teachers' pay while they are on maternity leave but will mean they are entitled to 40 weeks, rather than 18 weeks, of maternity leave after one year's service.

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