At last – a fairer approach to paternity leave

A new dad holding his newborn son.

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 It’s an outdated attitude, but one that is sadly still alive and well.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.

Comments

  1. Tim

    Well said. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that is generous enough to offer two weeks’ fully paid paternity leave, but if I had not been so fortunate I would probably have fallen into the camp of those who take holiday time instead as the shortfall between the statutory payments and my salary would have been prohibitive.

    I don’t buy the ‘business disruption’ argument either. I have a fairly senior job but I took two weeks off with our second and third children and four (including Christmas and holiday time) with our first. In each case I was still keeping on top of emails and urgent requests throughout my leave – but the point is that I wasn’t in the office and it was my choice to work as much as I needed to at a time that suited me.

    It’s not always easy but businesses have learned to adapt to being without mums who can go on maternity leave for up to a year at a time, so the argument that they will collapse if dads take a couple of weeks off is frankly both laughable and insulting to all parties concerned. We live in a modern world with modern technology and a workforce who are increasingly accustomed to working outside of the usual 9-to-5. Times have changed, and it’s a positive step to see progress being made on the paternity leave front.

  2. Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks

    I have been reading so much about this over the past few days and I can only conclude that it is a good move to increase time for new dads. Especially when my husband helped so much after the c section I had which I didn’t expect.

    Its made me appreciate all the more that this time being an expat my husband is entitled to nothing. Well his company allows 3 days compassionate leave so we get that but then he is using his holidays to take time out to help me. Precious dayS. Even more so as we use them to travel back to the UK to see family and friendS. Still I’m glad that being here (here being dubai) I don’t have to wawork and then be subjected to the 45 calendar day maternity leave!

  3. Rob George

    Totally agree, paternity leave is great on the surface but as you get closer to the time and actually experience it, it’s not brilliant.

    I had to take a week’s paternity leave and a week of annual leave otherwise we’d have lost out on just over a week’s salary. Not ideal to be thinking about in the build up to the greatest moment of your life!

    Cracking post pal! #PoCoLo

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