by Joshua Guest
As the birth of my second child comes hurtling at me at the speed of light (honestly, I could have sworn we were only at 30 weeks!), the subject of paternity leave has been one that I have paid a little more attention to during recent weeks.
Luckily I work for an employer that has afforded me a very flexible paternity plan, meaning I get to spend maximum time with my new son without having to compromise from an earnings perspective, however having researched the subject in further detail it would seem – for a couple of primary reasons - that I am in the minority.
As one of the least ‘family-friendly’ countries in Europe, the UK has been somewhat left behind when concerning its paternity policies. A mixture of lingering, overly ‘traditional’ mindsets (father brings home the money whilst the mother raises the children), as well as rigid, (financially) detrimental policies, have meant that only a third of new fathers take time off work when their children are born. Whilst there have been moves to try and close the gap (such as the introduction of shared parental leave in 2015) it would seem that the nation has been slow on the uptake (only 1% of eligible couples have decided to split the difference) and the status quo remains.
Of course every case is different, but another (growing) factor in the issue is the rise of the ‘gig’ (or flexible working) economy. Whilst this approach to working may entitle an enthusiastic entrepreneur to a shared office space and free coffees at WeWork it doesn’t bode well from an employment benefits perspective and if the offer from the government is £140 per week or 90% of salary (whichever is lower) it may be that these flexible workers actually can’t afford to take time off – even if they want to.
So how do we close the gap?
Encouragingly, this is an issue receiving significant spotlight and numerous major corporates such as O2 and Diageo are making moves to ensure that their employees (male or female) are well looked after, but that still doesn’t cater for those who don’t want to follow the corporate path. Theresa May has also stated her own position on the matter, outlining that as part of her ‘legacy’ she wishes to offer 12 weeks paternity pay to new fathers.
With the government and the private sector both making moves to change the status quo, I hope that more fathers are able to take advantage and grasp the unique moments that becoming a father brings, without worrying about the impact that this will have on their bank balance.