As of today, fathers are entitled to longer paternity leave – up to six months, in fact, if the mother has gone back to work. I love the timing of this, like a gift to families on Mothering Sunday.
A while ago I wrote about fathers getting a raw deal when it comes to paternity leave, and just a month later the proposal for the extended paternity leave was floated (I do wish that had something to do with my article, but I doubt it!). Today it came into effect, and basically means that mums can now 'transfer' the second half of their 12-month entitlement to the father, up to a maximum of six months.
While I found having my husband around for the first two weeks exceptionally helpful – I was breastfeeding and barely moved off the sofa – I don't personally feel that two weeks is long enough for him to really bond, nor that those first two weeks are the most essential time, so these new laws seem really good to me!
For the first few months, it's really only mum that matters to babies, but from around six months, babies are so much more interactive that it's a good time for dad to get to know the baby, and bond with a real little person – or so I think, at least.
While it may be harder for small businesses, and some may even be exempted, I do think that this is a step in the right direction. Sadly, however, I'm not sure how feasible it's going to be for most families:
Statutory pay is still only just over £120 per week, and with a new member to the family and mum having taken a pay cut for a while already, there aren't too many families that can afford to live off statutory income.
So, while I'm not sure that it's going to make a big difference to families in reality, I do think having the option is good for parents. And if nothing else, it removes an obstacle to women of childbearing age when it comes to job interviews - whether that discrimination is supposed to be there or not.
1970s Swedish Paternity Leave ad featuring weightlifter Hoa-Hoa Dahlgren – OnBeing @ Flickr
Paternity Leave – The US Army @ Flickr
Marco + Masi – Nico Cavallotto @ Flickr