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Theresa May has had a deathbed conversion to the cause
Prime Minister Theresa May has followed up rumours she was looking to extend paternity leave provision.
The government launched a consultation today on improving the minimum time off that men can take.
The exercise will also look at creating a new leave available to parents of premature babies so they can spend time with their newborns while they are in hospital. And the consultation finally acts on government promises to consider forcing firms to publish their maternity and paternity policies.
Launching the consultation with an op-ed in The Guardian the PM argues that the current arrangements where men are only entitled to two weeks of paternity leave is, “not sending fathers the correct message when our current leave allowances give women 26 times more leave than men”
She goes on to repeat many of the arguments that campaigners have been making for some time, including during the previous three years of her time in Number 10 when she showed little interest.
She said “All too often it is still mothers, not fathers, who shoulder the burden of childcare. So it is clear that we need to do more. The UK has some of the most generous maternity leave allowances in the world, but we only guarantee new dads and same-sex partners a fortnight off work – making it harder for them to bond with their child and care for their partner, and implying that it is the lot of the mother to be the primary caregiver.”
She appears to have been persuaded to look at paternity leave by the fact that improving fathers’ entitlement could go some way to tackling the gender pay gap. “Caring for children is a shared responsibility and means that employers will not be able to make assumptions about who will take on childcare responsibilities when a couple starts a family,” she wrote.
She claims Shared Parental Leave has changed attitudes when it comes to sharing childcare but she recognises it has not had huge take up. However her administration has dragged its feet on holding a review of the policy. The ‘gender equality roadmap’ launched earlier this month finally committed to carrying out the review by the end of this year.
Equalities minister Penny Mordaunt has been out on social media talking up the consultation.
Today the government has launched a consultation to get views on improving its landmark shared parental leave policy – https://t.co/fW4BfJ9qp1@PennyMordaunt sets out why the change is so important 👇 pic.twitter.com/StUNXuQVNo
— Women and Equalities (@WomenEqualities) July 19, 2019
Bizarrely May also seeks to claim credit for introducing Shared Parental Leave even though it was a Lib Dem policy as part of the 2010-15 coalition government largely piloted into law by Jo Swinson at the Businesses department while May was running the Home Office.
Launching the consultation now means the next administration, likely led by Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, will have to see it through. However it does not actually commit a future government to acting on the findings.