UK & World News
Labour Plan To Double Paternity Leave
Fathers could be given a month's paternity leave and paid at almost twice the present rate, under proposals being considered by Labour.
New fathers should be paid at least the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour for the four weeks off to encourage them to take time off to be with their newborns, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank.
At present men receive only a statutory £138.18 a week - just £3.45 an hour - with employers encouraged to make the pay up to the usual salary.
The low level of pay has been blamed for the reluctance of fathers to take time off to be with their child - just 55% take off the fortnight.
The IPPR estimated a pay increase would increase the number of men taking paternity leave to 70%.
Senior research fellow Kayte Lawton said: "Fathers who take more than a few days off around the birth of their child are more likely to be actively involved in raising their child than those who do not.
"Fathers' greater involvement in family life can make it easier for mothers to return to work after taking maternity leave, which helps to raise the family's income and lessen the impact of motherhood on women's careers."
Labour is considering adopting the proposal. Shadow childcare minister Lucy Powell said: "There clearly are problems with dads being able to play the role they want to in those first weeks and months of a baby's life.
"There are cultural barriers and also the level of pay is a problem for many. It's a very interesting proposal. It's certainly something we're looking at."
Conservative Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said the policy would be too expensive adding: "This policy would mean even more spending, more borrowing and more taxes - exactly what got us into a mess in the first place.
"It's the same old Labour, they haven't learnt."
Last week it emerged that fewer than one in 50 new fathers took up the right to additional paternity leave - where men are entitled to 26 weeks' leave after the mother has returned to work.
Only 1.4% of new fathers took additional leave in 2012-13, under the policy introduced by the coalition in 2011. In 2011-2012 it was 0.8%.