"My company pays paternity leave in full for 2 weeks and I am happy about it. It would have been great if paternity leave could have been extended and paid for further 2 weeks even if I have to sacrifice half my salary."
Parental leave policies are often rightfully criticised for not helping with the mother-father equilibrium in new families. As family dynamics suffer from a general lack of support for new parents, this poses a question on equality on both fronts - how can dads share parental responsibilities on equal terms with their partners when society still forces us into outdated models of mothers looking after kids and fathers bringing home the bacon?
While there have been considerable changes in the way parents are supported in raising their children (google Scandinavian parental leave), places like the UK and US are lagging behind tremendously.
Start with the US where both maternal and paternal leave are worse than your average dad joke. Mothers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to recover from birth under the Family and Medical Leave Act- yes, UNPAID. Fathers can in theory take it too but then you'd have a household with no earnings whatsoever. Even so, conditions apply and this makes over 40% of Americans ineligible. There is no national paid leave policy (though a few states have worked out their own) so the system relies on private policies offered by employers which can vary drastically from billion dollar companies with cash to spend on employee packages to cash-tight small businesses barely surviving as it is. While the tech giants of Silicon Valley built their policies with both parents in mind and support paid shared parental leave, many others completely leave out the fathers and don’t make it easy for them to spend time with their new arrivals, nor allow them to help their partners in recovering after birth.
What about the UK?
In Europe, a lot of countries are well-known for their focus on family wellbeing, but if you’re a father in the UK there isn’t much help for you. To put this into context, we started the new millennium without any paternity policy in the UK and it wasn’t until 2003 that paid statutory paternity leave was introduced. That is, a statutory paternity pay of £151.20, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for up to 2 consecutive weeks after your child is born (or adopted) - take it or leave it.
Would you like to accompany your partner to antenatal appointments? Go for it, but it’s unpaid leave. Not to mention it was only introduced in 2014, allowing fathers to attend 2 antenatal appointments, if you need more then use your holiday. Just like in the US, UK fathers are at the mercy of employer policies. Big corporations tend to offer more support, while small companies or self-employed fathers get very little, if any help. Yes, it’s zero help for the self-employed because those dads already enjoy ‘flexibility’. And don’t you just love it when flexibility puts a roof over your head and feeds your family? 😡
Then there’s SPL, or shared parental leave, introduced in April 2015 to help fathers take more time off and bond with their new arrivals. The scheme allows parents to split 50 weeks between them (after the mother takes 2 week of maternity leave straight after birth) and earn £151.20 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower), basically the same as paternity leave but extended to cover a longer period of time (37 paid, 13 unpaid weeks). The eligibility criteria is convoluted and applies differently to adoptive parents. No wonder official figures show that only 2% of new parents opt for this scheme and less than a third of fathers take any form of paternity leave.