WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUN. 16, 2014
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Paternity Leave Should Double to Encourage Fathers To Spend Time With Newborns

According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), new fathers should have their paternity and pay doubled to encourage them to spend more time with their newborns. The blueprint drafted by the IPPR suggests that new dads would benefit from four weeks’ leave paid at the national minimum wage. With the existing statutory paternity leave, fathers qualify a statutory £138.18 a week, equivalent to £3.45 an hour for a 40-hour week, with employers encouraged to make up the gap in the employee’s usual pay.

The think tank estimates that bringing the taxpayer-funded contribution up to minimum wage level would increase take-up to around 70%. This would in turn cost the Treasury of around £150 million in 2015/16. On top of this, from October, fathers will be given extra paid time off to attend four antenatal appointments – twice the number they will be entitled to from October.

What’s more, a shared parental leave scheme is planned to be implemented next year, which will allow new parents to mix and match 52 weeks of leave. This would enable a mother to transfer her allowance to her partner should she wishes to return to work earlier.

Fathers are Reluctant to Take Their Paternity Leave

Interestingly, only 55% of new dads took the full two weeks because they felt they couldn’t afford the low level of pay.  The Daily Mail reports that an additional Paternity Leave scheme introduced by Nick Clegg in 2011, which allows fathers to share up to six months’ paid leave with their partner, has been used by only 1 per cent of men.

The Labour shadow childcare minister, Lucy Powell claimed workplace culture still disheartens men from staying at home. She stated that her own husband had refused to take more than two weeks’ paternity leave, fearing the reaction from his colleagues in the NHS.

Miss Powell claimed young fathers have ‘the worst of all worlds’ because they are expected by their partners to take care of their children at home while not receiving proper support at work.

The Labour MP, supported that more money has to be given to new dads so that it is financially viable for them to stay at home. She proposed paternity pay could possibly be paid as a proportion of a new father’s salary, so high earners will not see their pay drop significantly.

Dads Need to be Given Time Away From Work

Senior research fellow Kayte Lawton noted: "New parents need time away from work to care for their young children, and to strengthen their relationship with each other at what can be a hugely enjoyable but also very stressful time. However, this is often difficult for fathers because they have limited entitlements to paid leave, and so they often assume the role of breadwinner while their partner is on maternity leave”.

Another interesting point raised by Lawton is that fathers’ greater involvement in family life could facilitate mothers’ return to work after taking maternity leave, “which helps to raise the family’s income and lessen the impact of motherhood on women’s careers”. As such, this would mean that the caring responsibilities will more likely be fairly shared by both parents.

All in all, it seems the fact that fathers have limited entitlements to paid leave, prevents new dads from making the most of their statutory paternity leave and taking an active role in family life. Doubling paternity leave pay and time is not enough to make a positive social impact. Policymakers should also focus on eradicating the cultural barriers and other obstacles that prevent fathers from playing the role they want to in those critical months of a baby’s life.

What is your opinion on this issue? Please have your say in the comment section below. 

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