As someone who has tried and failed in the past to persuade their husband to take additional paternity leave, I’m all too familiar with the barriers which stand in the way of more dads taking time off after a baby is born.
Again and again figures show that dads are getting a raw deal. Only half of dads take up current paternity leave; dads are twice as likely to have a flexible working request turned down than mums and a tiny number of eligible dads have taken additional paternity leave.
For Britain to succeed working families need to succeed. Under David Cameron the pressures mums and dads face means that making ends meet is tougher than ever before. Time is pressured too with some parents working two jobs to pay the bills or mums and dads shift parenting like ships in the night as they work different rotas. Our zero-hours low pay culture is making family life harder than ever before. The Tories just help a few at the top. They don’t understand the troubles facing working families.
Ed Miliband gets it. Yesterday he announced Labour’s plan for a better future for families. Families are frustrated with a system that hasn’t caught up with the realities of modern life. We’ll help families balance work and family life by doubling paternity leave for new dads and increasing paternity pay so it’s in line with the minimum wage, increasing it by over £100 a week. The first few months of fatherhood can affect the way that a father relates to his child for the rest of their lives and the taking of paternity leave is good for the whole family.
Helping dads take an active role in their child’s earliest steps is good for families but good for business too.
Many businesses already give dads extended paternity leave and pay and this announcement will give them a boost and reduce their costs.
Too many dads already feel that their working life hasn’t caught up with the fact they want to be there for their kids. This is a sensible step that is about building a culture where business who are going further are rewarded but all dads are given the chance to spend time with a new baby wherever they work. Extending paid leave to a daddy month recognises the important role that each parent can play and encourages a change in culture at work.
A dads month paid at a decent rate helps families to balance their work and home commitments and provides a boost to those businesses who are providing a modern workplace for modern families.
Lucy Powell MP is Vice Chair of Labour’s General Election Campaign