Fathers in Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos

20 April 2010

A Fatherhood Institute analysis of the three main parties’ manifestos for the UK General Election on 6 May 2010

Labour Manifesto

  • Labour (Manifesto p.45) confirms the government’s previously announced transferability to fathers of the later part of the mother’s maternity leave:  “We will introduce more flexibility to the nine months’ paid leave that mothers currently enjoy – allowing them to share this entitlement with fathers after a minimum of six months”  (OUR COMMENT:  Government’s own estimates are that only 8% of fathers will take this up, due to the pay level of £123 per week; and the fact that the father’s entitlement to this ‘transferable’ leave rests both on the mother’s entitlement to maternity leave and pay – and his own entitlement to paternity leave and pay.)
  • Labour’s new commitment in the Manifesto is to a ‘Father’s Month’ (Manifesto p.45) whereby paternity leave is extended to 4 weeks (2 weeks around birth; 2 weeks later in year): ‘We will introduce a new Fathers’ Month, four weeks of paid leave rather than the current two. We will also work with employers on how this can be taken flexibly – for instance, two weeks around the birth, and the remaining two weeks taken flexibly over the first year of the baby’s life, including the option of sharing these extra weeks between parents. This will be paid for as savings accrue from housing benefit through our reforms.’ (OUR COMMENT:  Unlike the transferable maternity leave, this will be the father’s own entitlement – but only paid at £123 per week, which will make it unaffordable for most fathers.  Furthermore, since this leave can be taken away from the father and used by the mother, this really amounts to ‘parental leave’ rather than a ‘father’s month’. International research reveals that for parenting leave to be taken more equitably and for gender inequalities to be addressed, it is essential that a substantial tranche of leave be reserved for fathers on a use-it-or-lose-it basis).
  • In their Manifesto Labour makes much of flexible working including extending the right to ask for flexible working to grandparents. (OUR COMMENT: it is worth noting that the government is currently developing a campaign to make fathers aware of their existing flexible working rights.)

Conservative Manifesto

  • The Conservative Manifesto does NOT include the word ‘father’.
  • The Conservatives say that they will enable parents to ‘share maternity leave between them’ but there are no details in the Manifesto.  However, in their position paper ‘Repair: A plan for Social Reform’, this policy is spelt out in more detail (see footnote 1). (OUR COMMENT:  As with Labour – and the Liberal Democrats (see below) – there is no ‘reserved leave’ for fathers.)
  • The Conservatives want to put ‘relationship support’ on a ‘long-term footing’:  (OUR COMMENT: by implication, this suggests a need to work with the father as well as the mother, on their relationship.   Not necessarily, however!:  This can be interpreted as being about equipping mothers to ‘handle’ the couple relationship – and no-one working with the fathers. There are various examples of this happening across the country, including in Bristol in a project very favoured by the Conservatives.)

Liberal Democrat Manifesto

  • Fathers to have the right to time off for ante-natal appointments
  • Parents to be able to share allocation of maternity/paternity leave between them ‘as suits each couple best’… (and) the period of shared parental leave to be extended to 18 months after the birth ‘when resources and economic circumstances allow.’  (Our comment:  there is no further detail on this in the Manifesto.  However, details were previously announced at Conference – see footnote 2).
  • The effort to encourage more men to work in childcare to be supported.  (OUR COMMENT: in fact, the current government is already doing this)
  • Where couples separate, a ‘Default Contact Arrangement’ is proposed whereby children’s time should be divided between both parents, as long as there are no safety concerns.

FOOTNOTES

1. ‘A Conservative government will introduce a new and more flexible system of parental leave. The Flexible Parental Leave (FPL) scheme would allow parents to have between them up to 52 weeks of FPl: In order to make sure that there has been enough time for the mother to recover from the effects of childbirth, and to allow mother and child to form a strong bond, the first fourteen weeks of the FPL should automatically apply to the mother.
It would then be up to the parents how to use the remaining 38 weeks. The mother could take off the whole 52 weeks; the father could take over the FPL at any time during the final 38 weeks; or the mother and father could simultaneously take off up to 26 weeks each, as long as fathers only take one continuous period of leave.
Parents who simultaneously take FPL would be eligible for double the rate of statutory maternity pay during the period of concurrent leave. Fathers who remain in work would still be entitled to their existing right of two weeks of paid paternity leave.
The leave would only be shared with the father if the mother is in paid employment and returned to work at the appropriate time.
The same rights should apply to a mother’s partner in a same-sex relationship.’
(OUR COMMENT:  No reserved lleave for fathers)

2. ‘Conference welcomes the recommendation that for the first time, support should be available for caring for children, right through from birth up to the start of school, with proposals to. . .Provide nineteen months of shared parental leave to new parents. . . .The current system of up to twelve months maternity and two weeks paternity leave to be replaced with nineteen months of parental leave, shared between the parents, making it easier for fathers to play a fuller role. . . All parents on parental leave to receive Statutory Parental Pay (SPP) at the level of the current statutory maternity/paternity pay, with a right to return to their old job. . . No parent to be entitled to take more than one year of paid parental leave, ensuring each parent has the option to take at least seven months… (OUR COMMENT:  There is no reserved leave for fathers in the first year – not even paternity leave, around the birth of the baby).

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