Nick Poole, partner at Darlington law firm Latimer Hinks, is calling for a greater sense of reality from organisations calling for changes in the parental leave system. Under the current system, fathers have two weeks paid paternity leave within eight weeks of the birth, at 108.85 a week. Women have 39 weeks paid leave with a Government proposal for the period to rise to 52 weeks by 2010. Maternity leave is paid at 90 per cent of the mother's average earnings for six weeks before it drops to the 108 level. Under recent Government changes, while the first 26 weeks of a mother's leave are hers alone she will be able to transfer the remainder of the paid leave to her partner if she wants to return to work and he wants to stay at home. The new Fatherhood Institute has recently focused attention on parental leave, which allows parents to take three months off until their child is five. However, this is unpaid, and take-up is poor. It believes that men and women should be able to take equal responsibility for the upbringing of their children, but in reality the majority of families cannot financially afford to do so. Nick said: Parental leave being unpaid may or not assist in meeting the needs of todays family. What is clear however is that few parents are likely to be able to take a significant amount of leave. If therefore parental leave is to be of real use to working mothers and fathers, it probably needs to be paid, but this gives rise to the question who should foot the bill? Small businesses, with few staff, will also face difficulties if key personnel are on leave for long periods of time. Nick added: An altogether more pressing problem is surely to address the issue of how one in twelve of our young people are not in employment, training or education. For further information simply call.