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Extra paternity leave emerges as an issue at meeting of All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fatherhood considered the impact of the pandemic on dads at a session this week. And paternity leave emerged as a theme that engendered a lot of discussion.
The APPG is chaired by Labour MP David Lammy. He said dads had faced “tremendous pressures due to the pandemic” in his opening remarks. Wellbeing and mental health were particular concerns.
The session was focussed on the experiences of new dads in lockdown. Attendees heard from Katherine Jones of The Fatherhood Institute about their research into how men have been excluded from antenatal appointments and labour wards.
Asked if working dads should receive extra paternity leave to make up for the bonding experiences they’ve missed out on at their baby’s birth Lammy said, “I think that raises broader issues about parental leave, it’s the source of ongoing discussions in this APPG.”
Jones, joint CEO at The Fatherhood Institute, added, “Critical for that bonding is some period of solo care for dads. The whole system [of parental leave] needs to be shaken up.”
The issue engaged many attendees in the online event’s chat. One contributor pointed out the huge difference in parental leave for mums and dads with men entitled to two weeks of paternity leave and women can take up to a year. However mums can transfer some of that to their partner through Shared Parental Leave. Michael Lewkowicz of Families Need Fathers added, “Lack of protected leave for fathers undermines confidence of fathers early. It also sends a message that they are not valued.”
The Fatherhood Institute work on fathers’ experience of maternity services during lockdown uncovered hair raising tales. One man spent five nights sleeping in his car in a car park while his partner laboured inside the adjoining hospital.
Eight out of 10 dads surveyed said they were not able to offer the support to their partner that they wanted to. 65% said they felt less well prepared for fatherhood. A third were concerned that their partner or their baby were put at risk because they were excluded. Jones said overall dads reported ‘a huge sense of loss’ at having missed out on experiences – including scans and the actual birth – they’d been looking forward to.