My Thoughts On Labour’s Proposed Changes To Paternity Leave

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).

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?