Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m partial to a little bit of a rant now and then, so what follows is uncomfortable new ground for me… I’m writing about something I’m actually really pleased about! I’m referring, of course, to Labour’s proposal to double paternity leave and increase paternity pay. It’s a great idea and, to be frank, about bloody time someone high up acknowledged the importance of dads to families.
As things stand, the current paternity leave entitlement could be seen as more than a deterrent than a benefit. First of all, two weeks isn’t nearly long enough – especially for first-time fathers. The first few weeks with a new child is exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. It’s essential that dads have a proper amount of time to develop a bond with their children because, let’s not forget, we’re already at a disadvantage in that respect for obvious biological reasons. It’s just as important that we’re there to support our amazing partners after the gargantuan effort that is the latter stages of pregnancy and childbirth. Throw in the distinct lack of sleep that you all get and it’s apparent that a fortnight is simply too short.
Secondly, statutory paternity pay simply isn’t enough at the moment. I know of several dads who’ve reluctantly not taken paternity leave and opted to take time off work as holiday instead, because they simply couldn’t afford to. This also meant that they were left with a depleted holiday allowance that would otherwise have been taken as precious family time.
Then there’s the fact that the current meagre arrangement for dads does little to challenge the perception that we’re second-class parents. It’s an outdated attitude, but one that is sadly still alive and well. If dads are around more in the first few weeks, the whole family benefits from it. Dissenting voices have already started to suggest that increasing paternity leave would damage business, but I find their arguments flimsy at best. I fail to see how an extra two weeks away from work is going to cause significant problems – employers manage when staff are on sick leave and the allowance would be funded by the government.
Of course, these new proposals may not come to pass depending on the outcome of the general election, but it’s great to see the topic being discussed and, hopefully, more dads will soon have a greater opportunity to spend time with their families at such an important time in their lives.