UK Paternity Leave Changes.

Here is a reason to allow Cleggie back in our good books (after tuition fee fiasco): he is rolling out a consultation to encouragemore paternity leave by 2015. The current allowance in the UK is 2 weeks btw (still better than the Dutch 2 days!!!!). Video of his speech here.

Distant promises aside, Clegg’s government will also implement some of Harriet Harman’s (secretary in previous labour gov’t) proposals THIS APRIL: if women return to work before using their full 9-months maternity allowance, they will be allowed to transfer some of their maternity leave onto their partners. This strikes me as a completely sensible change and it baffles me why that was not possible before. For whilst I welcome government maternity support, in the current system it hardly encourages choice or equality; it provides an actual disincentive to couples who’d wish for the woman to return to work earlier and for the men to take some leave instead. (I apologise for heteronormativity btw – I don’t know at all how this works in single sex couples – comments very welcome!)

Now for some reactions: Financial Times was quick to declare this a disaster for small businesses – before we even know what the plans are. I readily admit and understand that any form of leave can pose huge practical problems for small businesses, but it is interesting that noone seems to perceive any possible upside – namely that their highly qualified female staff might return to work more quickly!

More worrisome is Daniel Barnett in the Guardian, who gives exactly the kind of shortsighted response I’d have feared for. After pointing out some very legitimate practical problems that will arise for small businesses, he first writes a bogus practical objection:

“It will be difficult for employers to check the truthfulness of a father’s claim that his wife has let him take half of the parental leave, and it might end with parents being able to manipulate extra time off because of the impossibility of policing the system.” — EEEHM – if they manage this in Sweden, shouldn’t we be able to do so in UK??

But the following is worse:

“Finally, it will have a chilling impact on recruitment practice. Many employers shy away from hiring women of childbearing age. Clegg’s proposals might see employers becoming wary of recruiting anyone in their 20s or 30s.”

AH – I get it. So it is ok to discriminate against women, but it is “chilling” to discriminate against men of childbearing age??? Surely it would be a good thing if employers have uncertainty in their hiring process as to who will be taking time out, rather than always assuming it will be the woman and then not hiring her?

Besides – all people in their 20’s and 30’s is a large group to discriminate against. Not to mention that people in their 50’s and 60’s (the ones currently filing age discrimination complaints) might well welcome this relative increase in their employability;)

7 thoughts on “UK Paternity Leave Changes.

  1. Yay for fathers! One nit-picky comment, though: in the Netherlands, fathers get two days off when the kid is born, and the mum some couple weeks, true enough, but ! Then, both get parental leave, and they can choose who takes how much -I think up to three month each – to be taken until the kid is eight years old. And that is paid, although lower than the salary, but sufficient.

  2. In terms of same-sex partners, the entitlements are the same (it’s just the terminology which lags behind)!
    Here’s an excerpt from

    “Ordinary Paternity Leave entitlement
    To qualify for Ordinary Paternity Leave you … must be taking the time off to support the mother or carer for the baby and intend to be fully involved in their upbringing…
    You must be either the:
    – biological father of the child
    – mother’s husband or partner (including same-sex relationships)
    – child’s adopter
    – husband or partner (including same-sex relationships) of the child’s adopter”

    Actually, I don’t know why they include the child’s adopter – if you adopt and you’re the main caregiver, you can get adoption leave which is pretty much equivalent to maternity leave. (And in that case, I think which parent gets the ‘maternity’-type leave and which only gets ‘paternity’-type leave is determined by who is actually the main caregiver – even in heterosexual couples…)

  3. In the US only 6 weeks of unpaid maternity leave is mandatory.

    In Canada the mother gets 9 months to a year at at least 2/3 of her salary covered jointly by her employer and by government employment insurance. I believe that up to 3 months of this time can be taken by the father. Both parents’ jobs are held for them until they return. Some institutions in Canada offer even better paternity leave options than this–this is just the legal minimum.

  4. “It will be difficult for employers to check the truthfulness of a father’s claim that his wife has let him take half of the parental leave, and it might end with parents being able to manipulate extra time off because of the impossibility of policing the system.”

    So, are we to believe that a member of an HR department in a particular organisation is unable to contact a member of an HR department in another organisation, either by ‘phone or email, in order to ask ”Please can you confirm that person A has taken x number of weeks maternity leave?” If this creates more work for said organisations isn’t that a good thing? As someone who is struggling to find work, I’ll do it!

  5. Hey, just to clarify in Canada:

    Birth mothers who have worked a certain amount in the 6 months before applying get 17 weeks leave at 55% salary up to a maximum of ~$450/week. After that, either or both parents can apply for 35 weeks of parental leave between them, again at the same max of ~$450/week. Lots of couples split this to have time off together (there is no specific paternity leave, only shared parental leave). This is paid for out of government EI funds.

    Many companies supplement the maternity or parental leave of their employees further.

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