Fathers should be offered “use it or lose it” paternity leave lasting at least three months to help challenge the UK’s entrenched gender roles and the prioritisation of work over family for men, according to shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband.
The former Labor leader is advocating for a “reordering” of responsibilities that gives men the option of spending more time caring for children without financial penalty.
Writing in his forthcoming book, Miliband says that men who take paternity leave around childbirth develop a closer, healthier relationship with their child and that the family unit is stronger.
“Our ambition should be to build a world where men engage equally in the caring that has historically been done by women, and in so doing reorder the values of work, family and love so that work does not always come first,” he states.
Existing policy, él dice, encourages fathers to take only a “brief paternal pit stop” because they receive a paltry two weeks’ paid paternity leave at a flat rate of £150 a week, prompting most fathers to cite financial constraints as the biggest barrier to taking more leave with their newly born or adopted child.
The 51-year-old Doncaster MP wants fathers offered non-transferable paid leave at a generous level, which he believes would help reframe the “men at work, women at home” dynamic that current UK provision encourages.
En Go Big, su book about policy ideas that could transform society, he cites research that suggests that nine years after a baby’s birth, paternity leave has long-term effects on the quality of father-child relationships.
More equal parental leave would also benefit women in the workplace and help narrow the gender pay gap, which research shows can be attributed to childcare.
Although Miliband’s views aren’t official Labour policy, there appears to be considerable appetite within the party to promote gender equality. On Saturday details emerged of how Labour would make it illegal to make women redundant during pregnancy, while calling on the government to review its “failing” parental leave policy.
Miliband writes: “We would start to break free from a culture which loads so much on to women, penalises them for having children, constrains them in a particular stereotype.
“If we get this right, everyone can contribute to economic success and acquire more choice about how they balance work and family life. It could be the start of a remaking of the social contract between women and men and between work and family life,” added Miliband, who recently confessed he wasn’t bold enough when trying to convince the British electorate in 2015 that he should be prime minister.
Groups representing fathers’ rights welcomed Miliband’s intervention in the debate.
Michael Lewkowicz, spokesperson for the charity Families Need Fathers, dicho: “We fully support an extension of paid paternity leave. We believe both parents matter in children’s lives and research evidence supports this. Our policies are out of date and don’t support the best interests of children or families in general.”
Lewkowicz added that the UK has the world’s biggest differential between support for mothers and fathers – statutory maternity leave at 52 semanas compared to the fortnight for paternity leave.
“A take-it-or-lose-it approach to parental leave for each parent is the only model shown to work in promoting the beneficial involvement of both parents in children’s lives," él dijo.
The “use it or lose it” paternity scheme was rolled out in Sweden and Iceland during the 1990s and has been widely credited as a huge success.
En 1995 when Iceland had no paid paternity leave, men took just 0.1% of leave. Five years later, when fathers became entitled to two weeks’ paid leave – as in Britain today – that rose to 3% of total leave.
Ahora, with each parent in Iceland entitled to five months off work and paid at 80% of their salary, men take 30% of the total.
Previous attempts at reform have had minimal impact. En 2015 the coalition government introduced shared parental leave as a flagship policy but take-up rates remain low, with qualification requirements rendering up to half of households ineligible. The £150 a week flat-rate payment is, say experts, about half of the living wage.
Such an approach helps explain why the UK is currently 28 fuera de 31 of the world’s richest countries in a recent ranking of family-friendly policies by Unicef.