Should mums and dads share the parental leave? Yes!

1 December 2014

Jeremy Davies writes:

If you missed it, you can listen here to our joint chief executive Adrienne Burgess on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, talking about the introduction of shared parental leave. The interview was the last on the show – so you can scroll forward to 2h: 54m: 34 secs.

The introduction of shared parental leave can be spun in all sorts of ways – it’s political correctness gone mad…it will cripple British industry…the first year is for mums to do what mums do best, ie look after baby – so why on earth would we want to mess about with the natural order of things….

As you’ll hear from the interview, Today approached it from the latter angle, pitching us against Mothers At Home Matter, who argue that while dads may be important, it’s mothers’ role to stay home with babies, because they gave birth and do the breastfeeding.

The media always likes to set these things up like a battle – you’re either ‘for’ or ‘against’ – when in fact life tends to be more about shades of grey than blacks and whites.

We’re not the world’s biggest fans of shared parental leave. There’s plenty wrong with it, as it stands:

  • Only about a third of new fathers will be eligible because BOTH parents need to be eligible if the mum is to transfer her maternity leave to the dad
  • Most families won’t be able to afford to share the leave because even if both parents are eligible, the dad is more likely to be the higher earner
  • Self-employed dads aren’t eligible
  • The statutory rate of shared parental pay (like paternity pay) is paid at below-minimum-wage level (£139.58 per week from April 2015).

But it’s better than nothing.

And on the wider cultural point about whether or not families should be able to choose who does what in the first year….of course they should. And if you’re any doubt about why, read our research summaries on Fathers and Attachment; Supportive fathers, healthy mothers; Co-parenting and early childhood development; and Dads and Hormones.



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