Fathers will be given an extra four weeks paternity leave to encourage them to take time off with their young children, under Liberal Democrat manifesto plans announced today
Fathers are currently entitled to two weeks paternity leave but the Liberal Democrats want to go further and dedicate an extra four weeks exclusively to fathers. This will take the protected paternity leave for dads to six weeks.
The Coalition is already introducing shared parental leave in April 2015, with the first parents eligible for the leave finding out they are expecting now.
Peter Black, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Equalities, said“I am pleased that the Liberal Democrats are making this important commitment, building on the action we’ve already taken in Government to introduce shared parental leave from next April.
“We need a parental leave system that recognises that all families are different and removes the outdated idea that a mother must stay at home to look after a new born baby. Introducing longer paternity leave will create flexibility in parents’ working lives so that fathers can share the responsibility of caring for their new born children in those vital early weeks after birth.
“Making it possible for dads to stay at home for longer will also encourage more mums to return to work if they wish. This Liberal Democrat manifesto promise will help to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, where workers of both sexes are valued equally and are able to get on in life.”
Jo Swinson MP, Lib Dem Business and Equalities Minister, added:
“Extending paternity leave is an important next step to encouraging new dads to spend more time with their child in those vital early weeks and months after birth.
“When parents share caring responsibilities, more equality in the workplace will follow.
“It is a nonsense to think it is only the mother’s job to look after children. Parenting is a shared responsibility. Most dads want to spend more time with their new baby, but can sometimes be discouraged by outdated ideas and cultural barriers in the workplace.
“The ‘use it or lose’ it six weeks will establish the important role of dads early on, and encourage couples to use the full flexibility on offer.”
Notes to editors
We propose to dedicate six weeks of parental leave exclusively to fathers. This means they can’t share the six weeks with the mother i.e. the father uses the time or loses it.
This means total parental leave would be extended to 58 weeks.
This would be done by amending the legislation to provide parental rights to cover six weeks reserved for working fathers, six weeks reserved for working mothers and the remaining time available to share between partners.
Eligibility for the scheme would remain as for the current shared parental leave scheme.
In a same-sex couple, each partner would be entitled to six weeks’ reserved leave, with the rest available to share.
Why it is necessary
If women and men are to fulfil their potential in the workplace we need to allow families to make decisions about how they wish to share childcare and balance work and domestic commitments.
In Coalition we have already introduced plans that will see shared parental leave come into effect for the parents of babies due on or after 5 April 2015.
There are concerns, however, that even with shared parental leave fathers may not take up this important opportunity and so further incentives are needed.
International evidence suggests fathers’ use of parental leave is higher under programmes that offer targeted or reserved leave schemes as opposed to just making shared leave available to the father.
Shared Parental Leave
The Liberal Democrats in Government have already introduced shared parental leave and pay for employed parents, which comes into force next April.
BIS are announcing that those couples finding out in the next few weeks that they are expecting a child will be among the first parents eligible to take advantage of new shared parental leave rights.
Under the new system eligible couples will be able to share parental leave if the mother opts to end her maternity leave and pay early.
Working couples will be able to share untaken maternity leave and pay, following the first two weeks recovery period that mothers have to take off after birth, so up to 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared.
Shared parental leave and pay comes into effect for babies due on or after 5 April 2015, or adoptions where the child is placed on or after 5 April.
It is estimated that 285,000 working couples will be eligible to share leave when the scheme takes effect.