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Ed Miliband calls for 12-week paternity leave

Shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband says the current systems in place for parental leave encourages a ‘men at work, women at home’ culture.

Miliband has called for paternity leave that lasts at least three months to help challenge established gender roles and the prioritisation of work over family for men.

The former Labour leader has written a book, Go Big, about policy ideas he said could remodel UK society.

In it, he explored how existing policy encourages fathers to take only a brief paternal pit stop.

As men only receive two weeks’ paid paternity leave at a flat rate of £150 a week, Miliband said most fathers can’t afford to take time off to care for their new child.

He explained: “Our ambition should be to build a world where men engage equally in the caring that has historically been done by women, and in so doing reorder the values of work, family and love so that work does not always come first.”

Andy Chambers, founder at mental health consultancy Born Human, said Miliband’s proposed paternity leave would be a positive step towards a human-centric approach all businesses need to adopt in the workplace.

He told HR magazine: “Society has evolved; the role of fathers has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, and we need workplaces to represent the future not the past in how employers support their staff to raise their children.

"For most families today, parenting is very much a team effort and historical policies on paternal rights are no longer fit for purpose.”

Chambers said not only do parental polices limit a father’s opportunity to bond with his children, but the ripple effects are felt through the whole family.

“They reinforce gender stereotypes, prevent families from managing work as a unit and, most crucially, set the wrong example for our children to take forward.

"The chance to be present for our children as they grow is a right we should all be afforded and, while I recognise this change will take time to realise, the sooner we are able to create a level playing field for both parents, the better it will be for our children’s future," he said.

Caroline Nugent, HRD at Financial Ombudsman Services, said the pandemic has shown us having both parents around has benefited family life.  

She told HR magazine: “I’ve had lots of feedback from men throughout the pandemic about how they would never have had the opportunity to spend so much time seeing their child grow and, financially, would never had had the chance to do so if pay had been reduced as a consequence.

“Having more paid time off is really something we need to consider and a number of employers, like mine, try to support by paying more than the statutory minimum.”

Miliband said he wants fathers to be offered non-transferable paid leave at a generous level.

He said more equal parental leave would also benefit women in the workplace and help narrow the gender pay gap.

Kate Underwood, founder of HR consultancy Kate Underwood HR and Training, told HR magazine parental leave pay should be equal as both parents have a responsibility for the upbringing of a child.

She said: “More and more employees are trying to figure out shared parental leave and if it is financially beneficial for them, but it is not the most user-friendly system in the world.

"Many households have a female who contributes more to the family's finances and if there is no Occupational Maternity Pay then going from circa £1,153 a week, based on a £60K salary, to £160 a week is a problem.”

Underwood suggested if a partner could get 12 weeks of paid paternity leave, not only would it help with the finances, but it would also allow both parents to enjoy the first part of their baby's life. 

“Most parents don't want to have children just to hand them over to someone else to look after,” she said.