Why don’t fathers take more paternity leave?
Despite all the good intent, why is it that four in 10 dads still don’t take time off when their kids are born?india Updated: Feb 02, 2010 21:04 IST
He spent the entire fortnight playing computer games, sleeping in and going to bed late.” “He totally treated the time off as holiday and was having takeaways and wine every night.” “I was so pleased when he went back to work and I was finally left to my own devices.”
Who are the authors of these quotes referring to? Insouciant teenagers, perhaps? No, these are new mothers talking about their partners’ behaviour during paternity leave, according to an article in today's Daily Mail.
We fathers may bear many faults in the eyes of our better halves, but I find it hard to believe these recollections cast the usefulness of new dads in an entirely fair light. Sure, there are always a few bad apples, but how hard is it to get on the wrong side of a sleep-deprived, hormonally charged, breastfeeding mum anyway?
Maybe it is just wishful thinking but I’d like to hope that, looking back through bleary eyes to the time after our two sons were born, I put myself to at least some practical use (even if, admittedly, I can no longer remember exactly what that might have been).
Sadly, it looks like those Daily Mail mums could soon be home alone whether they like it or not. The government unveiled its green paper on the family yesterday, yet for all the recent noises from people like Harriet Harman about increasing paternity leave allowance, a survey by Working Families suggests that four in 10 dads still don’t take it.
Why is this? At present, the basic allowance for dads is just two weeks’ paid leave, and the survey shows many employers refuse to top up the rate of paternity pay from the statutory minimum of £123.06 a week, perhaps explaining why 72 per cent said they could not afford the time off. (It could of course be simply that the games console has packed up, but I doubt it).
The survey also revealed worrying evidence that some employers were either limiting paternity leave to a week, or else discouraging employees from taking it at all if it happened to fall at an “inconvenient” time.
Working Families has launched a campaign that will hopefully result in a much-needed kick up the backside to those firms still lagging behind in this area. After all, a happy dad is a productive dad.
Is your employer one of those who needs encouraging, or has it been more generous than it needed to be?