Workplace rights: Leave it to dad

The Government has decided that young families need fathers.

by Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors,e-mail:
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Employees' rights to take paternity leave will be transformed in about two years' time under new 'family-friendly' reforms. Statutory paternity leave is currently limited to a fortnight, but the DTI is consulting on proposals to allow mothers to transfer up to six months of their maternity leave to the father if she decides to return to work early. Ministers plan to introduce this rule at the same time as paid maternity leave is increased, from 39 weeks to a year. The aim is to give couples greater flexibility and boost the role of dads in the rearing of their children (although partners who are not the child's biological father will also qualify). These proposals are admirably progressive - but will they herald a parenting revolution? A big deterrent to taking extended paternity leave is that it will be paid at a low flat rate (currently £112.75 per week). Perhaps only families in which the mother earns significantly more than the father will be interested. And in Denmark, which already has a similar system in place, the average leave taken by fathers is still just three and a half weeks. Only time will tell whether the Government's paternal instincts are correct.

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