Give dads better rights says centre-left think tank

121018_bs_fatherandsonFathers need to be given greater parental leave rights if we are to tackle fundamental inequalities between men and women according to a new report on parenting by the centre-left think tank, IPPR.

The news comes as the Lib Dems prepare to reveal plans to increase men’s parental leave entitlement from two weeks to four weeks.

At the tail end of the 20th Century mothers and fathers had very little access to parental leave. This has changed dramatically in the past decade.

In 2006  New Labour introduced a parental leave system that was described by  Duncan Fisher, a former commissioner with the  Equal Opportunities Commission as  “one of the most unequal parenting leave entitlement regimes in the world”.

In 2011, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised to reform this system saying the laws on parental leave marginalise dads and deny them the chance to play a hands-on role.

While the Coalition government has made reforms to the system it still  discriminates against fathers. According to Ben Moxham at the TUC “the incentives in place for fathers are so poor that even the government estimates that only 2 to 8 per cent of dads are likely to take this leave”.

The Lib Dems now say that: “We believe men and women have equal rights when it comes to working and raising children.”

This is a somewhat meaningless statement as mums and dads don’t have equal rights and the Lib Dems proposal to increase paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks falls way short of equality.

According to the IPPR, a progressive system “would not only provide the mother with a leave entitlement sufficient to protect her health and that of her baby, but would also support a similar paid entitlement for fathers. A third bloc of shared parental leave, also paid, could be split by parents in a way that works best for them and their family.”

The Icelandic system is held up as an example to aspire to, where from 2016 parents will be given five months of maternity leave, five months of paternity leave and two months of parental leave for parents to use as they see fit

“This is a far cry from the UK’s current parental leave provision: a year-long maternity leave (paid at a relatively low rate), two weeks of paid paternity leave, and a period of transferrable leave (up to six months, which can be transferred fromthe mother to the father),” says the IPPR.

“Allowing the mother to transfer leave to the father in this way reflects strong assumptions about maternal and paternal needs and responsibilities. It also means that fathers don’t have their own entitlement to paternity leave – they are dependent on the eligibility of their partner.”

Last week, the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said dads needs better paternity pay, saying:

“Unless the government raises statutory paternity pay, which is set too low, many dads simply won’t be able to afford time off work. In countries where paternity pay is higher, fathers play a greater role in their kids’ early lives.”

However, opposition to giving dads better rights is strong. According to Duncan Fisher:

“A business lobby, keen to ensure men do not bow to domestic responsibilities as women have to, and the maternal lobby, keen for mothers to remain in charge in the home, combined forces in an unholy alliance, and this Government, like its predecessors, was no match for the pincer movement from both sides.”

And yet parental leave is one area where the men’s and women’s lobbies could be working together as greater equality for dads at home means greater equality for women at work. As the IPPR puts it:

“Unless fathers are given greater rights to paid parental leave, more fundamental inequalities will persist.”

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5 thoughts on “Give dads better rights says centre-left think tank

  1. After the liberals created the corrupt family courts with feminist laws, they now make a 180 turn and want to fix some of the tremendous damage they caused to society.

    What about Shared Parenting after divorce by default for fit parents? Abolish high alimony and high child support payments. Prosecute false abuse allegations and so on.

    • Thanks for your comments Brian

      We often hear liberals and feminists blamed for the problems with family law that you cite (and I am assuming you are from the US as you refer to “alimony”)

      Yet between 1969 and 1993 in the US the conservative Republicans were in power for 20 of those 24 years and in the UK between 1970 and 1997 Conservatives were in power for 22 of those 27 years — interesting to note you don’t hold conservatives responsible in any way

      Meanwhile in Sweden, for example, which is more liberal and feminist than the UK and the USA and fathers get lots of State support to share parenting before separation— dads are three times more likely to share parenting after separation

      What happens with separated dads in Sweden is far from perfect but considerably better than what happens in the US and the UK — and the big difference is they have a culture that promotes shared parenting and a legal systems that is supportive of shared parenting

      Issues of alimony and child support become less of an issue for dads where parents shared parenting and where there’s less of a gender pay gap because more women are in work — it’s much more of an issue in countries where the expectation is still that one parent will be the breadwinner and the other parent the carer

      In our experience both conservative and liberal thinking can be a barrier to shared parenting with conservatives expecting dad to be the breadwinner and mum to look after the kids, with liberals considering dads to be disposable and prioritising mums’ rights over fathers’ rights

      The challenge is our societies are in transition. In an age where women raised the children and men raised the money it made sense for mum to have custody and dad to provide financial support—that model is now rare and yet we are not yet in a position where all men and women share parenting and share financial responsibility before separation where it would make perfect sense to have an “equal” arrangement after separation as the standard outcome. Then you add into the mix all the separated families that were never an intact family in the first place………

      So if family life is more “liberal” in general what’s the answer for the average separated dad—more conservatism or more liberalism? Because the more conservatism root has tended to focus on making “deadbeat dads” pay up for their kids—-or to resist giving separated dads more rights in case it undermines the traditional family

      So it doesn’t really work to simply blame either liberals or conservatives

      That’s why we think its important to hear what solutions both liberal and conservative thinkers bring to the table—we have previously published the thinking of the Centre for Social Justice which is a centre-right think tank for example

      Thanks for your comments

      The Conference Team

  2. Pingback: Fall is here | Ottawa Moms and Babies Blog

  3. I fund raise for a hospital in Cuba and visit there to support the revolucion.
    As a separated dad who had the misfortune to wade through the family court circus i would never ever vote for a left wing party in this country again and all the allies of fathers rights (baring a potential convert in George Galloway) are right of centre.

  4. Pingback: When men take on the burden of breadwinning, it’s boys who suffer most | Equality 4 Men

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