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Dads need twice as much paid paternity leave and a culture shift towards father-friendly work, says Children’s Minister

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Published date:  08 Jun 2007

Paid paternity leave should be doubled so that fathers can spend at least a month with their newborn children, according to children’s minister Beverley Hughes. The proposal comes from a collection of essays, Politics for a New Generation, published by the IPPR and Palgrave Macmillan, which sets out a progressive agenda for Britain as a new prime minister takes office.

Seven out of 10 fathers say they would like to spend more time with their children than they currently do and evidence shows that when fathers are actively involved in their child’s first weeks they are much more likely to stay closely engaged throughout their child’s life, even if they end up separating from the child’s mother. IPPR’s research shows that children with an actively involved father have better behaviour and improved attainment at school. There is also evidence that where fathers play an active role at home there is a knock on effect on the quality and stability of the relationship between parents.

As part of a package of measures to support strong families in the modern world, the children’s minister also says the rates of maternity and paternity pay should be progressively increased and that the right to 13 weeks of parental leave should be a paid entitlement. She also argues that all jobs should be advertised as part-time, job-share or flexi-time unless there is a sound business case not to.

The children’s minister also argues that extending the right to request flexible working to all of Britain’s 29 million employees would particularly help parents to balance work around their children, rather than their children around their work, and make it easier for mothers and fathers to share these commitments together.

Children’s minister Beverley Hughes argues:

“I am proud that the government has already extended maternity leave and introduced paid paternity leave, but we must go further. It is not government’s job to bring up children, but there is more we can do to help parents to realise their aspirations and do the best they can for their children.

“Things are changing for women at work but fathers who want to work flexibly and play an active role in their child’s life are not being encouraged and valued by enough of their employers. This has to change.

“Fathers are saying loud and clear that they want to be able to spend more time with their children. Introducing statutory paid paternity leave for the first time ever in Britain has made a real difference for parents and their babies. But we must go further. Doubling the length of paternity leave, and paying it at a higher rate, will help thousands of dads from all backgrounds to be there for their children in those crucial early weeks.

“Ask parents what would make life easier and they invariably talk about time, money, choice and control. Despite our society becoming richer, balancing the competing pressures of family life is still far from easy. Complex family lives, and often fragile and fragmented employment patterns, mean that finding time and space for family while building a career and making ends meet can be a tough task.

“The best way to help children see more of their parents and for families of all shapes and sizes – including single people – to cope with increasing pressures is to change fundamentally Britain’s working culture. Far-sighted employers already recognise that flexibility supports staff retention. It’s good for the economy as well as for children and families.”

Peter Connor, chairman of the North West Flexible Working Group, said:

“For the increasing numbers of parents returning to the workplace - flexible working is not just an ideal but a real necessity, meaning mothers and fathers can more effectively juggle their home and work commitments. For employers, flexible working gives access to a wider resource of skilled people, makes attracting and retaining people easier and has been proven to increase productivity.”

Notes to Editors

Children, Parenting and Families: Renewing the Progressive Story by Beverley Hughes MP and Graeme Cooke is part of a collection of essays marking the 10th anniversary of Labour’s 1997 election victory. Politics for a New Generation, includes chapters by Ed Balls MP, Ed Miliband MP, David Miliband MP, Hilary Benn MP, Beverley Hughes MP, Kitty Ussher MP, Natascha Engel MP, Dawn Butler MP, Emily Thornberry MP, Alison Seabeck MP, Jamie Reed MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Gosta Esping-Anderson and Stan Greenberg. It is edited by IPPR’s Julia Margo and Nick Pearce.

Beyond Liberty: Is the future of Liberalism progressive? was launched by IPPR at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference and includes chapters by Nick Clegg MP, Vince Cable MP, David Laws MP, Steve Webb MP and Chris Huhne MP. The book is edited by IPPR’s Julia Margo.

Daddy Dearest: Active Fatherhood and public policy edited by Kate Stanley was published by IPPR in 2004 and made recommendations for the changes Beverley Hughes is proposing for parental and paternity leave.

Since a limited ‘right to request’ was brought in for parents of young children in 2003, nine out of 10 requests have been wholly or partially agreed between employers and employees.

The government is currently consulting on the administration of additional paternity leave and pay. It proposes that additional paternity leave and pay that will enable fathers to take up to 26 weeks additional paternity leave, some of which can be paid if the mother of the child has returned to work. This new provision will be available during the second six months of the child’s life. For more see:  


Richard Darlington: 07525 481 602 /