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EQUAL RIGHTS FOR NEW PARENTS

During the summer, a new report by the think tank, Reform, criticised Britain’s arrangements for maternity and paternity leave, proclaiming them: “unfair, anti-dad and bad for business.”

The report, Productive Parents, recommended that maternity leave be more flexible and fairer, highlighting the disparity between the amount of maternity entitlement paid to mothers on low wages in comparison to high earning women: “Mothers earning £50,000 and taking six months leave receive nearly £8,000 from the taxpayer. Mothers earning the minimum wage (£12,000 per year) receive only £4,500.”

British fathers’ rights to leave are inadequate and fall well behind many other developed countries


This report seems to back up growing concerns that Britain is out of date, forcing mothers to forfeit maternity pay if they want to stay in touch with the workplace but without returning to work full time. The report itself states that: “Current arrangements are out of touch with modern employment. They reflect on the outdated (and very British) idea that what counts is hours spent at work rather than work achieved – that ‘presenteeism’ matters more than productivity.”

At the same time, British fathers’ rights to leave are inadequate and fall well behind many other developed countries. A recent development that will affect new parents has also been announced by the government who have decided to delay their promised plans to extend maternity leave from nine months to a year until a “better economic climate allows.”

As reported in The Times: “Mothers would still be able to transfer leave, half paid and half unpaid, to the father.” This plan will come into effect from April 2011 and applies to the second half of the baby’s first year if the mum returns to work.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of the Working Families pressure group, quoted in The Times says: “We’d prefer to see a much stronger right, an independent right to properly paid time-off for all fathers. Experience in other European countries shows that this is what works best, and is most likely to lead to greater involvement with their children by fathers. But until then, this is a good start.”

The question will remain as to how many men will actually take this up. In a debate on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, former Dragon’s Den dragon and founder of Yo Sushi and Yotel, Simon Woodruff, who brought his daughter up himself, believed that the government proposal was “a good thing, for now, as it gives people choice,” noting that his experience with his daughter was an “enormously satisfying thing to do.”

“There is a dark secret that men want to keep – we enjoy doing boring and thankless tasks more than looking after children”


Arguing against the plans, writer and father of three, James Delingpole, stirred up the debate: “I just don’t think men are really as good as women at bringing up babies. We don’t have the portfolio of skills. There is a dark secret that men want to keep – we enjoy doing boring and thankless tasks more than looking after children.”

So, the new arrangements can be sure to start off an interesting debate between couples planning to have children…