Labour Leader Ed Miliband made headlines this week with his proposals for “Father’s Month”. His suggestion is to double the amount of paid paternity leave from two to four weeks and to increase statutory paternity pay to £260 per week.
This would make statutory paternity pay equal to a forty hour week working on minimum wage. Labour’s idea is that “when modern families succeed Britain succeeds.” The proposal enables fathers to take up paternity leave in a more affordable way at a time when finances are often tight.
Many dads currently do not take up their paternity leave due to reduced income at a time when money is most needed and some dads do experience Paternity Discrimination at Work. Experts estimate that increasing statutory paternity pay by over £100 per week would increase the uptake of paternity leave from 55% to around 70%.
The UK Coalition Government has now introduced Shared Parental Leave for parents whose babies are born or are due on 5th April 2015. Shared parental leave allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory parental leave pay on top of the existing two weeks of paternity leave. So if parents want to take it in turns to be the primary carer for their new child or if the mother goes back to work while dad stays at home, the state will support them.
Both shared parental leave and “Father’s Month” are intended to make it easier and acceptable for fathers to take some time off following the birth of their child. It is hoped, in turn, that maternity discrimination will be reduced where child care is increasingly shared by both parents. These steps should be welcomed, whilst recognising that further progress is still required to increase uptake by fathers. It remains unsatisfactory that fathers will only be able to take up shared parental leave based on the mother’s eligibility to take the leave.
Kiran Daurka is a Principal Employment Lawyer at Slater and Gordon UK.
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