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Hot topic: Longer paternity leave, part two

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to double paid paternity leave and increase statutory paternity pay if his party comes to power in May's election. Would such a policy encourage more working fathers to take more time off with their new babies?

The Modern Families Index, which was published by Working Families and Bright Horizons in January 2015, shows that young fathers are becoming increasingly involved in caring for their children.

More than half (52%) of fathers said they were dropping their children off at school every day, and 55% thought that parenting should be shared more equally.

But being more involved in family life is proving difficult at work, where workplace culture is out of sync with fathers’ aspirations for family life.

The pledge by Labour leader Ed Miliband that all four weeks of paternity leave would be paid at £260 per week – the equivalent of working a 40-hour week on the minimum wage, and almost double the current, shockingly low rate of £138.18 per week – could be even more significant for all parents and employers.

Because, if the Labour party now considers it necessary to pay fathers at least £260 per week to get them to take their full entitlement to paternity leave, as it surely is, then the same thinking undoubtedly applies to shared parental leave and maternity leave.

More and more young fathers want to be hands-on at home, and are resentful when work seems to provide less support to them than to mothers.

Increasing paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks, and doubling the rate of statutory paternity pay, will be welcomed by many families and should be by business leaders too.

At Working Families, we view increasing paternity leave as an opportunity to re-engage with a core group of employees, to help them to give their best at work by recognising that they also want to give their best at home.

Julie McCarthy is head of policy, research and communications at Working Families