New Parental Leave Policy Helps British Dads

The British government is planning a new parental leave system that would allow dads as well as moms to take significant time off. Businesses, predictably, are up in arms.

According to the Guardian, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced today that by 2015, the UK plans to enact a "properly flexible" system of leave for both parents. Currently, dads only get two weeks paternity leave, whereas moms can take a full year. Under the new system, mothers and fathers could share 46 weeks, with Dad taking over the leave when Mom went back to work. Government ministers are apparently mulling other modifications as well, including allowing parents to take leave in separate blocks rather than all at once, and instituting some kind of "use it or lose it" system to encourage men to actually take paternity leave. The latter is how Sweden convinced 85% of its fathers to take leave, helping take the pressure off moms and even lessening the gender pay gap.

The BBC talked to stay-at-home dad Thom Chesser, who's very much in favor of the changes. He says,

It would be lovely if more men got the chance to spend more time with their children. Fathers tend to take longer to bond with babies, so it can only be a positive. It's tiring, but very rewarding thing. And even where dads do go to work, if they didn't have to work such long hours it would make a big difference.

Of people's reactions to his parenting choices, he says, "Women are very supportive. They always say 'it's marvellous what you're doing'. And I think 'why? It's no more marvellous than you doing it.'"

Britain's business leaders, however, are not on board with this egalitarian attitude. David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, responded to the new plan with some confusing metaphors: "This sort of red tape is like a sledgehammer hitting small businesses which should be sources of growth and jobs." He added, "It suggests that the government is out of touch with how to support business owners." Apparently it's business owners who really need coddling. And they can't be expected to adapt to new or difficult conditions: says Andrew Cave of the Federation of Small Businesses, "The Government says it wants businesses to take on more staff but this sort of thing just throws up more obstacles. Businesses will have to co-ordinate with other employers to work out whether parents have used up their allowance –- it is a complete minefield."

Yes, Britain's new parental leave plans might force businesses to change how they do things. But pretending that they're incredibly vulnerable, in need of care, and unable to tolerate any alteration to their routine makes them sound like, well, babies.

Being A Stay-At Home Dad 'Tiring But Very Rewarding' [BBC News]
Nick Clegg Paternity Leave Plan A ‘Nightmare' [The First Post]
Nick Clegg Promises 'Properly Flexible' System Of Parental Leave [Guardian]