Sunday, 3 April 2011

Dad’s on Duty: Extended Paternity Leave for UK fathers now in effect

So it’s now official – UK additional paternity leave (APL) is now in force and will allow employees to take up to 26 weeks' leave to care for a new baby, on top of the previous two weeks of ordinary paternity leave.

The Federation of Small Businesses disputes this “one-size-fits-all” approach as being detrimental to small firms, not because it is expensive (this BBC article quotes the estimated annual cost in Britain at £3-15m in total) but because of the extra administrative burden of processing claims and arranging paternity cover.

I see the point here – maternity and paternity leave will now potentially affect more employees and SMEs may be less equipped to deal with this. But in our progressive world where men and women both work, I think increased flexibility that allows parents to share time off work during their child’s first year is a positive step forward. And compared to the USA with its lack of statutory paternity and maternity leave policies, APL only sets the UK further ahead.

What I’m interested in your view on, is how many dads will actually use APL? Will new moms choose to return to work earlier knowing their partner can look after their little one? Or will they want to maximise the time off they get in their baby’s first year to bond, breastfeed, play, mix with other mums/babies rather than hit the office earlier? From a financial standpoint, APL certainly seems more favorable to households where the woman is the primary wage earner. But what if the man is – would taking APLF financially add up?

Women work, stay-at-home dads are now a norm. Traditional barriers are long gone and I applaud this. Still, my honest, selfish, mama instinct tells me I’d be inclined to stay at home as long as I could rather than trade in my maternity leave early for Chris to stay at home unless we really couldn’t afford to do otherwise.

How do you feel?
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