Paternity leave plans welcome but more action needed

Jo has welcomed plans announced by the Government this week to grant six months’ paternity leave to fathers, but said more needs to be done to allow parents to share their responsibilities.

Fathers are currently entitled to just two weeks’ paid paternity leave, but under new plans they would be able to take six months, three of which would be paid. Mothers are currently entitled to nine months’ paid leave, but the new plans would allow them to return to work after the first six months and transfer the final three months to the father.

The proposal has been welcomed by Jo however she has said that longer parental leave is needed, and parents should have more flexibility in how they share it between them. Jo recently spearheaded the launch of the Liberal Democrats’ policy paper ‘Real Women’, which proposes the replacement of maternity leave with 19 months’ shared ‘parental leave’, giving parents more choice in how they share the responsibilities of child-rearing. The paper, which will be debated at the party conference this weekend, also seeks to give parents’ 20 hours’ free childcare per week, and extending the right to request flexible working conditions.

Commenting, Jo said:

“The Government’s proposal to extend paternity leave is a step in the right direction, and I thoroughly endorse any move towards gender equality in the home and work place. However, much more must be done to break down the stigma attached to applying for paternity leave, and to make sure maternity rights are not a disincentive to employ women. For that reason I believe a shared ‘parental leave’ is the way forward, giving parents the choice to divide up their responsibilities how they want to, and not how the Government tells them they should.”

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