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New Policy Would Let British Dads Use Maternity Leave

New Policy Would Let British Dads Use Maternity Leave

The British government has just announced plans for reforms to their maternity leave guidelines, saying that they may allow couples to share maternity leave, rather than giving it almost solely to women.  Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, described the current system as “Edwardian.”  The changes would mean that, after April, women who return to work without using their full year of maternity leave could give the rest of their leave to the child’s father, up to a maximum of six months.

Fathers are currently allowed a “paltry” two weeks of paternity leave, an allotment that Clegg said “patronizes women and marginalizes men.”  But Clegg also says that the British government wants to go much further, even allowing close friends and relatives to take parts of new parents’ leave.  He hopes that this would destigmatize paternity leave for men, as well as acknowledging that having a child in a modern context is complex, and families often make a variety of arrangements so that mothers can begin to go back to work soon after a child is born.

“By extending flexible leave, for example to grandparents, or close family friends, we hope to make it much more common – a cultural norm,” Clegg explained.

Business leaders are not happy with the new plan, saying that it will simply result in more red tape.  “Business is not against the principle of shared parental leave, but how is an employer expected to plan and arrange cover with this fully flexible system?” said a spokesman from the British Chambers of Commerce.

The Swedes have been rather successful in convincing men to take paternity leave, and the British are clearly moving toward a similar system.  And although businesses don’t seem happy with the prospect of having to give more leave to employees, ultimately this will vastly improve the lives of parents across the country, and make it much easier for women to balance a career and a strong family life.  Now only if the United States would jump on board…

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46 comments

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9:34AM PDT on Jun 17, 2011

Best to have birth control. I would vote for extra time off for a family who ADOPTS a child, to give them time to get to know their new family member.

9:33AM PDT on Jun 17, 2011

Fathers who are caring for children should have the same advantages that mothers who care for children enjoy -- this is the flip side of that 'equality' issue we women (and many men) are fighting for.

12:00PM PDT on Apr 26, 2011

Good move!

4:31AM PST on Jan 22, 2011

About time. How enlightened. Obviously nowhere NEAR America.

4:42PM PST on Jan 20, 2011

step in the right direction

9:26AM PST on Jan 20, 2011

We've already got this in Denmark, and I'm so proud of it.

1:12PM PST on Jan 19, 2011

Catherine G. ~ Thank you for those numbers, I didn't know how exactly was the pay for maternity leaves. I am still against it and will always be. Sick leaves I am for because you do not choose nor plan to become sick however you do plan and choose to have kid/s. A good portion of the people on Earth are stressed (i am 1 of them) and some of those stressed people don't have a child like me and those stressed childless people too can put pressure on the health care system of their country so where is our paid leaves?

1:02PM PST on Jan 19, 2011

Star River ~ Wow, nice reply! Can't handle somebody who does not think like you? If that's your problem then you should try not screaming at people with a different view from yours.

10:56AM PST on Jan 19, 2011

This is nice to read. A step in a good direction. :)

9:31AM PST on Jan 19, 2011

A step in the right direction methinks.
For Nancy - to help formulate her opinions better and to have better level headed reactions.

Women get 52 weeks' maternity leave. Six weeks is paid at 90% of average salary. Weeks 7-39 are paid at a maximum of £124.88. Over the total period, women end up with average compensation of around 40% of salary. The take-up rate for the 39 weeks is 84%. There is two weeks' mandatory paternity leave in the UK, at a statutory rate.
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Also paying mothers is more to do with making sure they have some sort of loyalty to their job. If they don't get paid then they might just take a very short leave that would be otherwise detrimental to their child. I'm sure ideally we'd all like people to plan babies and to be sure they can afford children but we both know this is not an ideal world and there are many mitigating circumstances.

Children and parents and happy families are created because the government sees the value in having a contented, healthy population.
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You are thinking about how unfair it is but the long term consequences of not paying them is, stress for the mother, for the child, therefore pressure on healthcare system. There is a logical reason why there is paid maternity care and it doesn't pay as much as you think.

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Colleen H. Colleen H. is an Online Campaigner with Care2 and a recent transplant to San Francisco from the East... more
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