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.