Boris Johnson U-turns on paternity leave

Downing Street officials insisted the Prime Minister would take paternity leave. Now they say he’s ‘too busy’


Boris Johnson will not be taking paternity leave. A year ago his spokesperson indicated the Prime Minister would take at least his two weeks of statutory paternity leave. That line was repeated following the birth of baby Wilfred last April. However yesterday, on International Women’s Day, it was revealed he’s changed his mind. The PM’s new press secretary Allegra Stratton said he was too busy to take any paternity leave. However she insisted he is a feminist. And she hinted that he’ll be promoting women in a forthcoming reshuffle.

She explained, “He is the prime minister and he works a very long day, he has a huge workload and I don’t think he will be taking paternity leave.”

She said he does a lot of childcare with his latest child. But she could not say with certainty that he’d ever done any during working hours. That contrasts with many other working dads who have had to combine work, childcare and home school in the last 12 months. It’s not clear whether Johnson contributed to the childcare of home school of any of his other children during any of the lockdowns.

International Women’s Day

The issue of men taking paternity leave was raised by female business leaders who met the PM for discussions to mark International Women’s Day yesterday.

Men who are more involved with their children in the first year of parenthood tend to stay more involved. Boris Johnson has at least six children. Four with ex-wife Marina Wheeler and another as a result of an affair. 

It’s not clear what proportion of men take no paternity leave. However it is known that role modelling can drive uptake. 

The decision not to spend dedicated time with his son marks yet another U-turn for the government after Johnson repeatedly indicated he would be taking some paternity leave. David Cameron did take paternity leave when he became a father again while in Number 10. 

At an event to mark International Women’s Day this week hosted by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership former government adviser Ayesha Hazarika suggested the current administration is particularly masculine. Speakers pointed out that the recent Budget offered nothing on the issue of childcare.

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