My Thoughts On Labour’s Proposed Changes To Paternity Leave

For once, I’m going to *attempt* to write a serious post, so please bare with me…

Yesterday, Labour announced plans to improve paternity leave should they win the upcoming general election in May. This would see statutory paternity leave for dads increase from the measly two weeks to a slightly improved four weeks, as well as the weekly payment nearly double from the paltry £138.18 to a less paltry £260.

It’s worthwhile saying that I have no political affiliation and, to be honest, don’t really give a crap about elections – I think I’ve voted once, but that was just so I can say that I’ve done it. However, that didn’t stop my ears pricking up when I heard about the proposals on ITV yesterday lunchtime.

My first reaction was overwhelmingly positive. In a society where everyone *should* be equal, I feel there is a massive stereotype that still exists when it comes to mums and dads. Mums are still treated as the main child bringer-upperer whilst the dad is viewed as the bread-winner – this is therefore still reflected in maternity and paternity benefits. Yes, the mum goes through pregnancy, labour, birth and all of the important bonding stuff once baby is here, but I don’t personally thing that this means they should be entitled to one year statutory maternity leave (where they receive payment for nine of these) compared to a, quite frankly shocking, two weeks for the dad.

Everyone’s situation is different and there are plenty of variations, but I guess the ‘normal’ situation is that the mum takes ‘x’ months of paid maternity leave, with the dad taking part of his two weeks leave before returning to work. Some dads will top this up by attaching two weeks annual leave onto the end of the paternity leave, however, shockingly only 55% of dads take the full two weeks of paternity leave because the family just can’t afford for both mum and dad to be off work.

I think this is a really sad state of affairs. So many dads don’t have the opportunity to spend time with their new family because of the financial pressures. These proposals obviously go somewhat to rectifying this, but I’d obviously like to see it go further. Even at the increased payment of £260 per week, this means that dads will receive less than £1,000 for spending a month with their family – I’ve not checked average UK salaries etc, but I’d hazard a guess that the majority of men out there are earning more than £12,000 per year. With mortgages, bills and every day living costs associated with a baby, I’d imagine that a large proportion of men still wouldn’t be able to take advantage of this four weeks statutory paternity pay.

What I would say though, is that I personally believe it is vital to spend as much time as you can with your family after the birth of your sprog. It is important for the dad to bond with the little one, but also important for the dad to be there to support the mum. It is a joint responsibility to raise your baby, not something which the mum should do with the dad changing a few nappies here and there – which I think is still a very stereotypical image of the dad’s role. This is particularly pertinent if the mum has had a traumatic birth or is struggling with breastfeeding, PND etc.

I’ve been in a hugely fortunate position since Baby L was born. I have been with her nearly every minute of every day since she departed the mothership six months ago and I would not change that for the world. It has been awesome spending time with her and watching her develop, as well as be there to support the missus. We have done everything as a family and shared responsibilities as best as we could. I still do a bit of freelance work from home so the missus has taken on a bit more baby-related stuff than me, but I’m so proud that we’ve been able to achieve this as a family. I just could not comprehend only having two weeks with your newborn, or worse still, not being able to have any time with her because of financial pressures. The plan is then for me to become a stay at home dad when Hay returns to work in May as this is what best suits our situation.

So, I think that’s pretty much my thoughts on the topic at the moment – apologies for the mind dump and lack of structure, but I just wanted to get my opinions out whilst the topic is still fresh. To summarise:

  • Labour’s plans are a big step in the right direction – dads should have more than 2 weeks paternity leave at £138.18
  • However, more could and should be done to give dads the option to be at home longer with their new family, e.g. the statutory payment still isn’t enough
  • I’ve loved every second of being at home with the sprog and wife for the last six months and wouldn’t change it for the world – I’d also hugely recommend every new dad does (if they can).

If you missed it, John from DadBlogUK appeared on Channel 4 news last night to talk about the subject and has since eloquently penned his own thoughts. You can have a read of this and watch his live TV debut over on his DadBlogUK.

What are your thoughts on the proposals? Did you / your husband take any of the statutory paternity pay? Would you / your husband want to have stayed at home longer with your little one if you had the option of doing so? Let me know below!

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  • john adams

    Well put Dave. I’m not going to repeat what I said on my own blog post (aside from anything else I’ve been up since half four and am about to pass out!) but I largely agree with you. In fairness ot the politicians, they’ll never create a system that suits absoutely every one but the more flexibility in the syetm the better, and Labour’s plans would make things that bit more flexible in the earliest days.

    • Thanks – exactly, not everyone is going to be happy with what is decided, but feels like this is at least recognising dads that bit more 🙂

  • I am not political at all but I do think Dads should have a better and more playing field as mothers we are all striving to be equal in everything why not. Great post. Thank you ever so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  • Laura Powell-Corbett

    I do agree and I do also like that you can do a leave swap in the UK.

    It’s been brought into context having moved to Dubai where MATERNITY leave is 45 CALENDAR day. It’s said to be an attempt to send more mums back home Where culture dictacts they belong.

    In contrast, dads depend on the company. For this baby my husband is entitled to 3 days compassionate leave and has saved his holiday entitlement to stay home after baby 2 is born. Stark difference to baby 1 where he was guaranteed 2 weeks with flexi holiday time. This in a way doesn’t impact as much but for the fact we need that holiday to be able to travel back to the UK to see family So his time will be cut short.

    I think I rambled on a tangent…. but my general thoughts are that it is a good thing that policies are changing its wonderful to see attitudes finally changing towards the Dads role in the home.

    Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks

    • Thanks Laura, interesting to hear how things are in Dubai. Wow, 3 days is nothing and I can imagine that was pretty hard to cope with. Yes, agreed, at least things seem to be taking dads into account more often 🙂

  • It’s so interesting to read your view on these proposed changes. My husband and I have discussed the question of Paternity Leave many times, as we live in a country where dads get three days… He took 16 because his boss was more understanding than most, but it still felt way too short.

    I therefore agree that Labour’s proposal is a step in the right direction, but actually I think a better system would be one that is similar to what they have in Scandinavian countries: Parental Leave shared out equally. As in, no difference as to whether it’s mum or dad who takes the leave. Because isn’t that the only way to address the other problem associated with short Paternty Leave: the fact that mothers on long leave are driven out of the work force, and the dads who do want to take longer leave feel afraid to do so in case it damages THEIR careers? As you say, looking after a baby is a joint responsibility and the law should reflect that.

    • Hi Eline – wow, 3 days is nothing and here I am complaining about 2 then 4 weeks haha. Good that he was able to take off 16 though. I’m not sure if it is ‘live’ yet, but the UK is introducing shared parental leave – just as you say, this allows the 52 weeks to be shared out between the parents based on what they think is best for them. I agree that this is a good way of doing things, but to be honest, I don’t really know loads about it and I’m unsure how these Labour proposals would impact on the shared parental leave. Still, an interesting debate and important to recognise that dads are getting more of an option which is great.

  • Jennifer; Love Life & Laughter

    Really interesting post. My husband took 2 weeks off after I had our baby last year. We were fortunate that we could save up the loss of earnings, so he could take the time off . Friends of ours didn’t have that financial luxury and he only took a long weekend when his baby arrived. It was such a precious time for us as a family, and I was so sad that our friends lost this opportunity which didn’t seem fair. Those two weeks were probably the happiest times I can remember. It allowed my husband to bond with our baby, but to also look after me which was essential when our family didn’t live nearby. It would be amazing if these proposals did go through one day and did help family’s take this time off to be together.

    • Thanks Jennifer – I echo a lot of what you’ve just said – for all of our faults (!) dads are really useful and we need our time with the baby and partner. It is no longer 1960 where the woman stays at home and the man goes to work. Obviously money talks and not all blokes can take the time off, but it is such a great experience and I feel sorry for those that miss out (either due to money or because they are just dicks). I live in a bit of a bubble because I’ve been able to be with my little one for the last 6 months, but it makes me realise how lucky I am when others can’t do what we’ve done but would like to. Having said that, I also think that it can be achieved if you prepare – if pregnant, put some extra money aside, stop buying takeaways etc, in order to have the money to support your family for those early weeks and so you can spend time with them.

  • Lisa

    My other half took two weeks off but one of those was annual leave! We were discussing this news the other day and he said that whilst it’s great, he still wouldn’t be able to take that length of time of because we’d still be so out of pocket and still have to pay the mortgage and everything else! #mmwbh

    • Exactly Lisa – although it is a step forward, the amount the dad needs to be paid has to be increased even further – not many families could survive on less than £1k in a month when you take into account bills, mortgage etc, unless you have a decent amount in savings. Great that he took the 2 weeks off though 🙂

  • Stephanie Barlow

    Although the increased paternity leave would be great financially, as of April this year parents can split their joint maternity & paternity allowance between them. Some friends of ours are planning on doing just that with mum & dad taking 6 months each to spend at home with their little one.

    • Yep, exactly Stephanie – as mentioned in some comments below, I’m not quite sure how these proposals would / could affect the shared leave and I didn’t even try to get my head around it haha. I personally think the shared sounds better as it allows you to split it however you choose after the first few weeks of the mum being at home. Whatever the details of any of it, it is great that it is being talked about and dads are being considered more.

  • Beau Blue

    It’s rubbish isn’t it! My hubby only took 3 days off as only living off maternity for two weeks wasn’t ideal! I completely agree with you though, bills have to be paid somehow! Even though Jordan only took 3 days, his bond with baby E is so strong and now Elliott gets excited when Jordan comes home from work! Hopefully with the next one he can take longer off work!

    • That’s great to hear about Jordan and Elliott – obviously if a dad isn’t around for those first few weeks, it doesn’t mean that no bond can be formed, it just helps. Man, 3 days is tough – must have been really hard on you both, but as you say, sometimes you just have to crack on due to stupid financial stuff! 🙂