Fathers Direct welcomes Paternity Leave

21 February 2001

Fathers Direct, the national information centre for fatherhood, welcomes today’s recommendation that fathers should be entitled to a fortnight’s paid paternity leave.

Tom Beardshaw, Campaigns Manager for Fathers Direct, said:

“Paid paternity leave is a major step forward. Fathers need to be with their families after the birth, so they gain confidence and learn quickly about parenting. The implications for the health of mothers and children are well-researched. After the birth, mothers need fathers’ support, especially given today’s high rates of caesarean deliveries. Post-natal depression rates are lower if fathers are supportive and breast-feeding is more successful. Crucially, the first fortnight is when health visitors train new parents at home. If fathers are at work, they miss out and their children suffer.
“We are disappointed that the proposed level of paternity pay is not higher. New fathers take their breadwinning responsibilities very seriously. British new dads have to work the longest hours in Europe to pay for the extra costs of a baby. So many fathers will be unable to afford to take paternity leave. Today’s announcement challenges employers to top up paternity pay just as many already top up maternity pay. Research shows that helping dads at this time makes sense for businesses which save money through higher productivity and lower staff turnover.”

Notes to Editors

Fathers Direct, the national information centre for fatherhood, was founded in 1999 to promote close and positive relationship between fathers and their children. It is a charity funded by public and private grants. This month it launched the first on-line magazine for fathers – www.fatherhoodinstitute.org Fathers Direct has written a guide for new fathers – The Bounty Guide to Fatherhood , delivered free to 600,000 new fathers every year.

Fathers Direct, Herald House, Lambs Passage, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TQ

Key Facts 

  • With increases in social mobility and with many older women now in the paid workforce, extended family support for ‘new mums’ is substantially less than it used to be, and fathers are now needed to provide it 
  • This is particularly the case in caesarean deliveries (now at 20% in many parts of Britain) where a mother finds it difficult to lift her new baby for weeks if not months. 
  • Much of the early parenting education is done by health visitors, who are legally required to visit the home regularly in the first two week. If a father is at work he is likely to miss these crucial visits. Fathers who have attended infant-care courses do more care-taking than unprepared fathers, keeping closer to their babies, and interacting with them more face to face 
  • Midwives and health visitors also provide information about breastfeeding and can teach a father to support his wife in a number of ways. A father’s positive attitude is the most important factor associated with deciding to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is associated with a wealth of positive health outcomes for infants and children. 
  • When the father is more supportive of the mother, she is more effective in feeding the baby. 
  • Female post-natal depression is less likely when fathers are actively involved in infant-care. Female post-natal depression is strongly linked with poor infant development and with behaviour problems in toddlers and children, particularly boys. 
  • Babies who have involved fathers in the first year of their lives are outperforming their peers by age one. 
  • Older children who have a strong relationship with their father, including his being available to them when the new baby comes home, adjust better and develop better relationships with their new sibling. 
  • Providing benefits for parents is good for business – it pays off in terms of greater loyalty and motivation among staff, lower turnover, and lower recruitment costs. For example, AMP, Australia’s largest insurer and the owner of Pearl Assurance in the UK, has given paid parental leave of up to six weeks to hundreds of parents and has calculated that the move has saved the company 400% of their initial investment through changes in staff loyalty, retentions and productivity.

References

Lewis C (1986) Becoming a Father, Open University: Milton Keynes
Nickel H & Kocher N (1987) ‘West Germany and the German speaking countries’ in Lamb ME (ed) The Father’s Role: cross cultural comparisons,. Lawrence Erlbaum Hillsdale NJ
Bar-Yam NB, Darby L., (1997) Fathers and Breastfeeding: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Human Lactation, Volume 13:1
Guigliani ER et al. (1994) ‘Effect of breastfeeding support from different sources on mothers’ decisions to breastfeed’ Journal of Human Lactation Vol.10:3
Silverstein L (1996) ‘Fathering is a feminist issue’, Psychology of Women Quarterly 20(3-37)
Pruett, K (1987) The Nurturing Father, Warner:NY
Dunn J & Kendrick C (1982) Siblings: love, envy and understanding, Harvard University Press: Cambridge Mass

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