Monday, February 1, 2010

Yeyy UK!

The UK government announced last week that fathers will soon have the right to take up to six months of paternity leave!

Both The Guardian and The Telegraph reported that starting April 2011, fathers will be able to take the place of the mother for the last 3 months of her 9 month maternity leave and be eligible for statutory governmental pay of £123 a week. After that, he can choose to take an addition 3 months of unpaid paternity leave.

This is great news for parents because this now allows them to have a total of 12 months of parental leave that they are able to split between the two parents. But unfortunately, Ministers estimate that "between 4% and 8% of those eligible for the new leave will take it."

Much of the credit can be given to Equalities Minister, Harriet Harman, who has been working for these types of parental rights. Harman claims, "we've doubled maternity leave; doubled maternity pay; introduced paternity leave; more than doubled good quality affordable childcare places; and introduced right to request flexible working."

Many businesses are up in arms about this new policy claiming that this is placing an unnecessary burden upon them at an already difficult economic time. Fortunately for them, if single digit percentages of fathers take this opportunity, "only 1% of businesses will be affected".

Countries all over Europe are adopting paternity leave policies that are helping enforce equality in the workplace. A prime example is Sweden where parents are given 16 months of paid parental leave, of which the minority parent (typically the father) is required to take at least 2 of those months. The United States has not made much of an effort to mimic these countries. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the closest thing the US has to legally required parental leave and it only gives either parent 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. Currently, there is a bill going through Congress called the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2009, which gives federal employees paid leave for 4 of the 12 weeks allowed under the FMLA. This only applies to federal employees but is a small push towards paid parental leave for both parents.

photo courtesy of U.S. Army via Flickr

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