Ed Miliband has announced Labourís intention to double paid paternity leave from two to four weeks if they were to get into government. Furthermore, he has committed to raising the pay to £260 per week for new fathers- this is over £100 more than is given at present. The scheme would be paid for by savings made in tax credits.
The paternity leave scheme is an integral part of a week in which Miliband will outline a number of Labourís family orientated proposals and strategies. Those inside the Labour camp have referred to their leaderís intention to emphasize the distinction between their innovative strategies and the Conservatives ìoutdatedî policies that offer tax breaks to married couples.
The current policy for paternity leave, in place since 2003, offers new fathers two weeksí paid leave as long as they fulfil certain pre-requisites such as working for their employer for a fixed period of time. Part of the problem with the current scheme is that, due to financial pressures, merely 55% of new fathers eligible for the benefits take the entire two weeks off. The increase in pay per week is part of the plan to further incentivise fathersí spending more time with their new born children.
The Institute for Public Policy Research first assessed these proposals last year and ever since the scheme has been subject to reproach from leaders of business and industry. These leaders argue that the plans could increase the financial pressure on smaller firms and that they may struggle to meet these new figures. However, Miliband has rebutted the criticism and said the proposals are fully accounted for and vital for the healthy functioning of families in the UK.
In a speech for Monday, Miliband will say: ìAt the same time as women are under pressure in their careers, more fathers want to play a hands-on role in childcare, particularly in those first crucial weeks of a childís life.î
In referring to past eras of Labour rule, he is to state: ìThanks to the last labour government, fathers have two weeksí paid paternity leave. Millions of families have benefited with parents saying this has helped them support each other, share caring responsibilities and bond with their children.î
The problem has been that ìthe money isnít great and too many Dads donít take up their rights because they feel they have to go back so they can provide for their family.î
Labourís plans are to be financed by the savings made in tax credits, specifically a scheme that will offer free childcare to families of three and four-year olds. This will dispense with the need for those families to use benefits in order for their children to be cared for. They cite a study conducted by the House of Commons library that reported the extension of free childcare to three and four-year olds would reduce government spending by significantly more than £150 million. This is the figure that the IPPR, a leftist think-tank, anticipates it will cost to finance paternity leave.
The director general at the British Chambers of Commerce, John Longworth, has criticised the proposals. He stated: ìAlthough well-meaning, proposals such as this create very real costs for businesses, which can in turn lead to reduced productivity, reduced growth and fewer jobs. Businesses have already had to absorb over half a dozen changes to parental leave in the last decadeÖThis constant instability raises costs for businesses and generates uncertainty when it comes to taking on new staff.î
However, advocates have accused such doubters of standing in the way of progression and not supporting the new age of family dynamics where women are equally required in the workplace and men need the necessary help to spend more time in the home with new born children.
The senior policy adviser at the National Childbirth Trust, Elizabeth Duff, stated: ìAs well as the difference it will make for mums, the more that dads are able to engage with their baby in the early days the better their bond will be, so we want to see all political parties committing to policies like this that will give fathers more time with their new families.î