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Rising star of Conservative party talks up role models as he turns his back on Brexit for baby time
‘Real men’ take time off to spend with their children according to the first male MP to use proxy voting while on paternity leave.
Bim Afolami, Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, posted a video on his Facebook page last month announcing that his wife was expecting their third child imminently and that he would be taking paternity leave.
That meant he would miss the historic Brexit votes in parliament. But due to new rules introduced earlier this year he’s able to use a proxy vote, getting another MP to vote in his place while he is away.
At the time he explained why it was important for him to use his paternity leave entitlement and to be vocal about the fact he’s doing it.
“It’s about saying you can be busy and ambitious and take paternity leave,” he said. “I’m busy and ambitious, and I took it.”
He also said he did not want to “feed the myth that to be a real man in the workplace you don’t take baby leave, you keep your head down.
“It’s worth just appreciating that women have had to deal with this for a long time – being a female MP with young children is harder than being a male MP with children,” he added.
He began his fortnight of paternity leave yesterday after his wife gave birth at the weekend to the couple’s third son.
His Tory colleague Gillian Keegan, MP for Chichester, voted on his behalf last night on the fairly inauspicious Northern Ireland Budget bill making history in the process. He follows Labour MP Tulip Siddiq in taking advantage of the new proxy voting rules that were rushed through parliament after Siddiq had to go through the lobbies in a wheelchair for a crunch Brexit vote earlier this year on the day she was due to give birth.
Afolami, again emphasised the importance of role models as history was made. Norwegian research has found that men are two-and-a-half times more likely to take paternity leave if a family member or co-worker has already done so. He said, “It isn’t going to change the world overnight, but I hope that having more fathers in the public eye taking some time to prioritise family life will encourage others to do the same.
“Men need to prioritise helping in the home much more, take advantage of increased opportunities for flexible working, and regard their wives’ careers as just as important as their own.”
Research has found that men who are more engaged with their families report being happier, healthier and more productive.
It’s been suggested that women who are supported by their partners in the early days of maternity leave are less likely to suffer mental health problems and women who are able to return to work earlier are less likely to suffer a pay penalty over their working lives.
Afolami added, “It isn’t just a question of fairness, but it will also benefit both men and women in many aspects of our lives.”