More and better paid paternity leave is the answer: FI response to Clegg consultation

17 January 2011

The Fatherhood Institute has stressed that the Coalition’s plans to bring about more equal sharing of parenting between the sexes by reforming parental leave, will only work if dads have access to substantial and properly paid leave on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will announce today that the Government will proceed with plans – due to take effect in April – to allow women who return to work before the end of maternity leave to transfer the remaining time to the baby’s father. But the Government will also consult on a “proper system of shared parental leave” to be in place by 2015.

Ministers are looking at proposals under which mothers would be able to keep their right to six weeks’ paid maternity leave and fathers their two weeks of paternity leave. After that, the overall allowance – pay as well as time off – could be shared between parents, who could be off at the same time if they wanted, or take the time in chunks rather than a single block.

Ministers are also looking at offering a “use-it-or-lose-it” leave allocation for fathers to encourage men to spend more time with their new children.

Rob Williams, Chief Executive of the Fatherhood Institute said the current system denies choice to families, with huge consequences for the UK economy – and that properly paid ‘use it or lose it’ paternity leave is the way forward:

“Every year the UK invests significant financial resources to enable parents to take time off from work to care for new born babies and infants.  The current system, under which fathers are sent back to work after only two weeks and mothers are ushered into the home, denies any real choice to couples about how they want to arrange their lives and has far reaching negative consequences; putting pressure on families and relationships, driving a huge gender pay gap, costing our economy billions of pounds a year in wasted talent, and delivering poor outcomes for children.

“The Coalition came to power with a goal of making Britain the most family friendly country in Europe and also a pledge to support shared parenting from the earliest moments of pregnancy.  Rearranging the current system of leave available to parents is the most important step the government can take to achieve both of these aims.  The introduction of the option for the mother to transfer the last 26 weeks of her maternity leave to the father will not make a big difference to the real choices available to parents because this leave is not paid.  The bigger ideas which the government is considering, including paid leave for fathers on a use it or lose it basis will open the door to a much more equal sharing of parenting between men and women, and give them a much better chance of successfully making the transition from happy couples to stable parents.”

Read our ideas about parental leave.

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7 Comments »

  • village says:

    I was discussing this with my friend who has a small company employing seven men and he said this was the final straw and that he would be laying off the men and closing the company and retiring, he is 46. I think you have not thought this through. Fine for large companies but for smaller ones it may too much of a burden.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      The Government wants to make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe; to make this a reality, it’s vital that families have real choices around breadwinning and caring. The change from April creates no new leave for either mothers or fathers – it simply means that in some cases men will take up some of women’s leave. Given that all companies already need to be prepared for the legal responsibilities of employing female staff – and of course would be on very dangerous ground if they were to avoid such responsibilities by only employing men – your friend should have nothing to worry about!

    • North says:

      You are so right to highlight this as a problem. My father runs a small business and maternity leave is a real problem causing enormous damage financially (cost of a temp) but even greater damage in terms of slowing progress because tempts are not as committed to long term goals. It leads to discrimination against women of child bearing years because small businesses see them as a liability. At least these proposals will hopefully remove the discrimination element as potentially any employee could be on leave, not just women.

      Small businesses need extra support though regardless for which parent takes the leave. I think the financial burden should be entirely covered by taxpayers. Holding a job open for someone is a trickier issue to resolve.

  • Mike says:

    As a teacher in Australia, I was able to take paternity leave although not paid. I worked 3 days and my spouse worked 2. We still received a full single income but the rewards were plenty. I was able to spend 4 full days a week with my boys.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Thanks for this international perspective. It’s great that you’ve had the opportunity to be so involved. Of course for many families it’s just not financially viable for the dad to take time off – that’s why paternity leave that’s paid at something close to salary-replacement level is so important

  • Andie says:

    I am afraid that the coalition government’s announcement on men being able to share the parental leave allocation is completely unworkable for men, particularly if they are the higher earner, both financially and career-wise. Time away from the workplace can result in the father being held back in terms of career progression, as is often the case when becoming a mother. It is a headline grabber for the government during a time of clutching at straws.

  • Mike says:

    Isn’t this discussion discriminatory in itself?

    In the scheme of things, by sharing the paid ma’n’pa leave, you also share the risk of opting for leave. Overall, employee insurance will soon cover the risk anyway, all the employers really need to deal with is the inconvenience and this will often lead to benefits as well.

    The issues are short term just as it was with paid holiday leave, superannuation, loading and all the previous arguments.

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