Parental Leave Reform

Having a child is one of the most amazing and life changing event in a couple’s life. It’s a cliché but nothing can prepare you for the sleepless nights, constant nightly feeds and the general demands that a newborn brings, plus the changing paradigm of your relationship with your partner.

There is a lot of focus on the Mother’s well-being both physically and mentally during those anxious few months, but little is done to support the Father’s mental health. Recent research conducted by Zurich has highlighted that current entitlements cause working fathers to suffer emotionally and mentally after the birth of a child, and the lack of parental leave is not enough to bond with their new child.

The Government are acknowledging and addressing this with a new proposal to support families with a consultation on parental leave reform underway, called The Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families. The Government state they are proud that the parental leave system is generous but acknowledge that:

“more could be done to better balance the gender division of parental leave and pay between parents.”

The Government’s report highlights that:

“The number of fathers with young children who are making use of flexible working is increasing and part-time working among fathers of young children almost doubled from 3.9% in 1997 to 6.9% in 2017 but most fathers in employment still work full-time.”

A study by Zurich which coincides with the Government consultation to improve parental leave entitlement for fathers and partners found that 40% of fathers said that their return to work was too soon, with a staggering 15% of men not taking any time of at all.

Almost half (45%) of those who didn’t take any paternity leave said they couldn’t afford a drop in their pay for two weeks. A further fifth (23%) blamed a heavy workload.

The research found that the amount of leave taken is in stark contrast to the amount of time dads would like to take. When asked if they’d take 16 weeks’ paid paternity leave if it was offered by their employer 77% said yes, with 67% of those saying they’d choose up to 20 weeks

The research highlighted that this gap between preference and reality is taking its toll, with almost three-quarters (72%) agreeing that new fathers tend to suffer emotionally and mentally after the birth of a child and with juggling the demands of returning to work.

A recent BBC article highlighted the increasing pressure men feel in balancing both work and more involvement in childcare and homelife.

In response to the changing employment landscape, and the current gender division of parental leave, Zurich has announced its new family friendly policies for all of its 4500 employees, with progressive equalised approach towards shared parental leave, with the ability to take up to 16 weeks full paid leave for both parents.

The Governments consultation on the proposal to better support parents to balance work and family life will close on the 29th November 2019.

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