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Paternity Leave Reform

View profile for Chloe Pereira
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Draft Regulations to amend paternity leave rights have been laid before Parliament. The changes will:

  • Enable fathers/partners to take their leave and pay as two separate blocks of one week
  • Allow leave and pay at any point in the first year after the birth or adoption of the child
  • Shorten (in most cases) the notice period required for each period of leave and pay to 28 days prior to the leave (rather than the current 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth).
  • Allow variation of the original dates of leave on 28 days' notice.

These changes will go a small way to providing fathers with better provision for when a new baby comes along. Currently, new fathers are entitled to take 2 weeks leave within 8 weeks of childbirth. The two weeks must be taken as a block, or fathers can take just one week instead. These amendments will allow fathers to split the leave and take it within the first year. This clearly provides greater flexibility, and means that those fathers who aren’t able to take two weeks at once don’t lose out. But is it really the change that new families want or need? 

Many, understandably, would prefer as much time off as possible immediately following birth/adoption. It isn’t unusual for new fathers to add holiday onto their 2 weeks paternity leave so that they have at least a month, if not more, at home to spend as a new family.

That’s great for those who work for understanding and flexible employers, but not all employers are so amenable, and fathers can sometimes feel pressure not to take more time off than their legal entitlement. 

Perhaps what the UK really needs is to take a leaf out of Sweden’s book, who provide 90 days paid paternity leave as well as a whole host of other generous family related rights. It’s part of the much bigger picture of equality – we can’t expect to fully get there when rights for men and women when it comes to family care are so imbalanced.