Disappointment at failure to introduce Daddy Month

20 September 2004

Fathers Direct, the national information centre on fatherhood, today welcomed Patricia Hewitt’s announcement that she would support an extension of state-funded leave entitlements for mothers and fathers after the General Election.

However, Fathers Direct warned that her failure to advocate introduction of a “Daddy month” – an extra four weeks paid paternity leave taken flexibly in the early years – could undermine the current shift among parents to sharing the care of their children.

The “daddy month” was pioneered in Sweden and is a period of leave that only dad can take. It has significantly increased the long-term responsibility that fathers take for the care of their children and resulted in real shared parenting for many couples.

Duncan Fisher, director of Fathers Direct, said:

“We warmly welcome Patricia Hewitt’s support for increasing the level of statutory paid paternity leave. Currently it is too low, so many families cannot afford to take it. However, we had hoped that she would also support introduction of the Daddy month, which has been so clearly successful in increasing the long-term role that fathers play in their children’s lives. We hope that Ms Hewitt will revise her proposals given the weight of research showing that the children of involved fathers do better at examinations, are less likely to get into trouble with the police and enjoy long-term mental health benefits.

“We welcome Ms Hewitt’s support for better paid maternity leave, which we have long advocated. It is vital that, as she suggests, mothers should be able to transfer some of their leave to the father.

“We know that fathers of under-fives in typical families are now doing one third of the parental childcare, according to research published by the Equal Opportunities Commission. We must structure our leave entitlements so that young children maximise their time with their parents. We must not create a system of leave that forces a woman either to stay at home or place her baby in childcare. She should also, if she chooses, be able to share the care with the child’s father.”

“We know that employers are concerned about the level of leave entitlements but some of Britain’s most profitable businesses have recognised that flexibility for staff is key to success.”

Notes to editors:

Fathers Direct is the national information centre on fatherhood. An independent charity, established in 1999, Fathers Direct aims to create a society that gives all children a strong and positive relationship with their fathers and other male carers and prepares boys and girls for a future shared role in caring for children. The charity trains hundreds of family sector workers annually who want to involve fathers more in their services..

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