New paternity proposals to offset ‘Alarm Clock Britain’

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has outlined new proposals on paternity leave in the wake of a think tank report which revealed dads in particular want to take a more hands-on approach but are stymied by current work practices.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has outlined new proposals on paternity leave in the wake of a think tank report which revealed dads in particular want to take a more hands-on approach but are stymied by current work practices.
Today he announced dads and mums can transfer maternity and paternity care, but business leaders are cautious about the impact in difficult economic times.
In April, fathers can take the second six months’ of maternity leave – three months on SMP and three months unpaid – if their partners go back to work early.
But Mr Clegg wants to go further with reforms – he thinks the current system is ”Edwardian” – and has proposed plans where working couples with newborns can split their leave so dads could get up to 10 months paternity leave.
Mothers would still get the first six weeks after birth off, but father could take all 10 months of the remaining 46 weeks or could share it with mothers. Clegg says blocks of time could be set aside for dads to promote uptake of leave. He added that the Government was looking at other ways to encourage men to take more leave, such as through use-it-or-lose it blocks reserved for fathers.
”Too many of these parents feel trapped by the current rigid rules,” he said. ”We want to give them the flexibility that sets them free.”
He labelled the current situation as a system which ”patronises women and marginalises men”.
Mr Clegg has spoken about his desire to help parents in ”Alarm Clock Britain” – parents who get up in the dark, take their children to school and work hard, often for long hours.
The think tank, Demos, has called for government legislation to help hard-pressed working families, in a report which warns parents need greater support.
The Home Front report published today revealed a third of fathers in the UK work more than 48 hours a week, compared with a quarter of men without children.
The poll of 1,017 parents also found that one in eight fathers work more than 60 hours a week, and typically, fathers increase their hours after their youngest child reaches the age of six.
The number of working mothers has gone up from one in six in 1951 to two in three now, with 6% working more than 48 hours and 3% more than 60 hours.
The report showed parents felt guilty about working so much and also felt they were less effective parents to their second or third child than their first.
Jen Lexmond, author of the report, said: ”The right kind of work that is flexible and stimulating can improve parenting, but these kinds of jobs often come hand-in-hand with high levels of stress and emotional exhaustion which can be a toxic mix for parental confidence.
”What’s clear is that our jobs make it difficult to share parenting responsibilities – the result too often being a double shift for mothers and a lack of engagement from fathers.”
The report warned parenting was becoming a ”more isolated and anxious task”.
Demos has called on employers to experiment with flexible working and wants the Government to bring in an equal system of parental leave for mums and dads with the ability to transfer leave to each other.
Gillian Nissim, founder of, said: "Workingmums welcomes the move to allow men to share baby leave with their partners and to open up greater choice around how they take this. We believe this is a good start towards encouraging more equal involvement in childcare among men and women. At the moment, most of the onus of childcare is on women which can lead to women being disadvantaged in the work place and make for difficult career choices. We also welcome the commitment Nick Clegg has given to ensuring that proper consultation takes place."
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, commented: “The UK has the most unequal parental leave arrangements in Europe so extending the previous government’s shared leave plans is welcome.

“New parents should be able to decide for themselves who looks after their baby in the first year, rather than having the decision dictated by government regulation, as is currently the case. It’s important however to ensure that new mothers are encouraged to take sufficient time off to recover and breastfeed their babies.

“Businesses across Europe have had shared parental leave arrangements for years. There is no reason why UK business can’t do the same.”
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: ” It is good to see that fathers are on the radar of Government and it is also positive that families will have a better chance to choose who works and who cares.
On the face of it, this is welcome news.  The gap between the entitlements that working mothers versus fathers have is out of touch with the way that families want to live today. But sharing maternity leave means that men whose partners don’t work or are self-employed will be left out.  We’d urge the Government to consider giving men a stand-alone right to better paternity leave.   It’s encouraging that the Government is talking about ‘use it or lose it’ leave.
We know from our own work that men increasingly wish to take a more active role in their children’s lives, and are keen to exercise their rights to flexible working to do this.  Our current research project into fathers at work has shown that there are positives when men are able to spend more time at home – for example, men who do more housework are less stressed.”
The plans have been cautiously welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
Mike Emmott, CIPD employee relations advisor, said: ”It has to be right in principle to move towards a more equal sharing of the burden of childcare between mothers and fathers.  There is no doubt that women are placed at a disadvantage in the labour market by employers’ concerns about the likelihood they will take time off at some stage to start a family.
”If men and women have similar entitlements to leave following the birth of a child, this should go a long way to relieving employers of these concerns.  And this can only reduce the likelihood that women will be discriminated against when they apply for jobs, or for promotion.”

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