Fatherhood Institute calls for new approach to parental leave

15 September 2009

The Fatherhood Institute is calling for a parental leave system that reduces the differential between mothers’ and fathers’ entitlements – so as to bring about a shift towards more shared care between parents.

In our briefing paper, Supporting Families and Relationships Through Parental Leave, we point out that systems which have been successful in enabling parents to have real choices about how to allocate their responsibilities share the following characteristics:

• The bulk of the leave can be taken by either father or mother or both (so the leave entitlement differential between the sexes is not substantial)
• Some portion of leave is reserved for the father, on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis
• Leave is well paid, enabling either partner to take time off without courting financial disaster.

Further, the best predictor of which parent will take leave, over and above any reserved leave for either parent, is the level at which that leave is paid. We therefore suggest moving towards the following:

• Reduce Statutory Maternity Pay to 14 weeks and pay this at a substantial level – i.e. not less than 80% wage replacement (with a cap)
• Increase Statutory Paternity Pay to 6 weeks @ not less than 80% wage replacement (with a cap)
• Introduce 12 weeks Parental Leave (to be used by either parent) initially to be paid @ basic (income support) level, but (once the well paid maternity/paternity entitlements are in place) moving towards not less than 80% wage replacement (with a cap)
• Once this is in place, introduce payment for additional periods of Parental Leave (having converted any remaining Maternity Leave into Parental Leave), and consider reserving some of this leave for mothers and some for fathers
• Think seriously about introducing flexibility in leave-taking into the system.

To read our proposals in full, you can download the briefing paper from the ‘Related documents’ section below.

For details on the government’s proposals for paternity leave from April 2011, click here

Download: Supporting Families and Relationships Through Parental Leave.