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Nick Clegg, parental leave, Deloitte, deputy prime minister
An old photo, and one I couldn’t resist using again. That’s me discussing shared parental leave with Nick Clegg late last year.

 

Having recently passed comment on the Labour party’s paternity leave plans, it only seems correct to do the same for the Liberal Democrats. In case you missed it, the party leader Nick Clegg and Equalites Minister Jo Swinson have announced the Lib Dems would, if successful in the General Election, triple statutory paternity leave from two weeks to six weeks.

According to newspaper reports, this additional leave would be provided on a use it or lose it basis. In other words, you would have to take the paternity leave within eight weeks of the birth / adoption of a child or else lose the entitlement altogether.

The other significant point to mention is that statutory paternity pay would not increase. It would continue to be paid at the present rate of £138 a week. More about this in a moment.

This seems like a very sensible extension of the shared parental leave rules that come into force next week (I won’t go over the rules here, you can read about them by following this link). This is one policy the Lib Dems were successful in pushing through as part of the coalition Government.

Even before coming into force, Nick Clegg himself acknowledged the rules didn’t quite go far enough and that a use it or lose it clause was required. This was largely based on the experience of other nations where shared parental leave exists.

The experience in such places was that men were reluctant to take the leave because of fears that employers may take a dim view of them spending an extended period of time at home following the arrival of a new child. The answer was legislate in a way that, ahem, persuaded them to take the leave (ie; take the leave in a set timeframe or lose your right to it).

What’s been announced today is a sensible move. It’s well known that a man who is involved with his children from the earliest stages tends to stay an involved father. This policy would help achieve this and, as Nick Clegg pointed out, hopefully break down the idea that childcare is solely a woman’s responsibility.

Extending paternity leave in this way would also give men and families greater flexibility following the birth or adoption of a child. In addition, it would give families enough time to deal with the aftermath of a difficult pregnancy.

There is, however, one weak spot. In most families the man is the main earner. Sadly, many men simply can’t afford to take paternity leave, hence why many men either don’t take their leave at all or only take some of it.

At this stage, I’m not sure who has the right idea. It’s great to see two major parties recognising that men should be able to play a greater role in their children’s’ early years. What we need is widespread acknowledgement that paternity leave has to be affordable for the families who need to benefit from it.

There would be a cost to Government and business to achieve this. As I’ve said in the past, however, there is a cost involved in doing the right thing.

On the run up to the General Election I am hosting guest posts form a variety of political parties. the first post was provided by Lib Dem Equalities Minister Jo Swinson and you can read it here. Contributions form other political parties are to follow shortly. 

Please do consider voting for me in the Brillaince in Blogging Awards. You can vote here.

Like what you’ve read here? Why not buy my book A modern father (…and dad blogger).

The Dad Network

12 thoughts on “Comments on Liberal Democrat plans for paternity leave”

  1. Two things I’d want to see, that I think would improve paternity leave.

    1. A better amount than is available money wise (I could only afford a few days off when my kids were born because Statutory pay just does not cover what would be lost).
    2. The ability to take it in bits and pieces, a week here a week there over the first year makes more sense to me, you can take a chunk at the beginning, and then when you partner goes back to work etc.

    All use it or lose it does is mean people won’t use it, especially if they cannot afford to take the huge loss in wages statutory would be.

    Anyway, if the last election is anything to go by a lib dem promise is about as believable as when my daughter (5) “promises” she’ll go to sleep!

    1. I know what you mean about having some flexibility in the first year or so. Ultimately, however, I think dads need to be involved at the very beginning to ensure they stay engaged with their children. I agree, though, that the issue of statutory paternity pay needs to be addressed as a priority.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I like to think the shared parental leave rules that will come into force next week will go some way to addressing the “employing a woman f child bearing age” issue. We then just have to get men to take their share of leave also!

  2. My husband’s infamous phrase ‘there’s no I in team’ (where ever he got it from) is so true – having babies is a team effort (ideally) and one of life’s special magical moments. I think how things start off can often dictate how things roll for the next few weeks. Dad’s / partners are absolutely vital to the whole thing. I too think pat leave should be flexible – some families genuinely do better with a staggered approach.

  3. I totally agree John; I don’t necessarily know what’s best at this stage, but the fact that 2 parties are talking about it certainly highlights a small victory already. We’ll have to watch this space! Knowing politicians though, they won’t do what they say anyway! Great post.

    1. A small victory indeed. These things do take time so we need ot keep telling the politicians what we want and need.

  4. I think it’s great that this issue is climbing higher up the social and political agenda, because currently the onus is on the mother to take the leave but it ought to be shared. This will balance out the inequalities in the workplace, in pay levels and in attitudes towards employment. There is still a long way to go, but paternity/maternity leave that could be shared across both partners over the first few years, as in Scandinavian countries, would certainly to a long way to levelling out the playing field

    1. I’m also glad this is climbing up the policy ladder. It’s an issue all political parties need to consider.

  5. It’s certainly a step in the right direction and worth applauding as such. I would have loved to have had this option with each of our three, instead taking the two weeks’ paternity leave on offer (which was great, but not as much as I’d have liked).

    You also highlight the weak point of the policy – that it remains a major financial penalty for many (not all) dads that puts them off taking additional paternity leave. I was fortunate that my company has quite a progressive stance. I had my two weeks’ paternity leave on full pay. I’m not sure how they’re dealing with the new system but even if they keep it at two weeks at full pay and statutory thereafter that’s still vastly better than most.

    Maybe we should be looking for businesses (especially larger ones) to take the lead on this as much as government. It’s only one factor out of many but having fully paid paternity leave contributes to how well-disposed I feel towards my employer. Yes, it costs the business more in the short-term – but nowhere near as much as it does to replace a disaffected employee and i reckon that there is a (hard to quantify) productivity benefit too from having a happier dad return to work after paternity leave rather than have one who struggles through without.

    1. The idea that you get happier staff by treating them well seems ot be core of the Lib Dem policies. Obviously there’s a cost to the employer for doing this. Anyway, as you say, it shows a clear direction of travel. Imperfect, yes, but a sign of further father and family friendly policies I hope (ideally from all parties).

  6. Pingback: The Big Fat Linky of the Week - 11 / 4 / 15 - The Dad Network

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