Parenting leave reforms a ‘lost opportunity’ to modernise, FI warns

13 November 2012

The government’s proposals for changing the system of leave entitlements for new parents, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on November 13, send a perverse message to families. They amount to a de facto statement that a mother’s child-rearing role is more important than that of the father.

Under the changes, mothers will be able to transfer maternity leave to fathers from 2 weeks after the birth of the child (rather than 20 weeks as now), in theory encouraging both parents to take a full role from the start – with all the benefits that brings. However, it is clear that what is being proposed will actually have almost zero impact on the ability of parents to share responsibilities for young children.

Crucially, the government’s new proposals make a father’s entitlement to leave dependent on the mother’s work status – a bizarre arrangement that will not work, and a fundamental statement that the responsibilities of mothers and fathers are unequal.

We welcome fathers’ new right to time off (unpaid) for antenatal appointments, but overall the current proposals give the appearance of progress when fundamentally there will be none.

A well-designed system, based on genuinely shared responsibility for the upbringing of children, would be good for the economy, good for child welfare and good for family stability and is well worth fighting for. We urge Government to think again.

The above statement was drawn up by the Fatherhood Institute and endorsed by:

Adrienne Burgess, Joint Chief Executive, Fatherhood Institute

Emeritus Professor Peter Moss, Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London

Professor Margaret O’Brien, Co-Director, Centre for Research on the Child and Family, University of East Anglia

Professor Michael Lamb, Professor of Psychology, Fellow and Director of Studies, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University

Professor Tina Miller, Professor of Sociology, Oxford Brookes University

Susanna Abse, Chief Executive, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships

Rebecca Asher, Author, Shattered

Duncan Fisher OBE, Family Matters Institute 

David Lammy MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood



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