LibLink: Jo Swinson: Shared Parental Leave is an important step to the wider cultural change that they need

Jo Swinson has been writing for the Huffington Post about what the Liberal Democrats have done on child care and parental leave.

 Liberal Democrats in the coalition government have taken important steps to support parents with childcare costs despite the challenging economic situation. We extended free early years education to 15 hours a week for three and four year olds, and introduced 15 free hours for four in 10 two-year-olds – those from the most hard-pressed homes. We are also introducing Tax Free Childcare to save working families up to £2,000 per child per year from September.

But there’s more to come. Not only a tripling of paternity leave, but extra help with childcare costs.

We also want to extend free early years education to all two year olds. We know that pressure to budget for childcare costs doesn’t just start when a child is two years old, and that the costs can prevent parents from returning to work. We are committed to bridging that gap so that free childcare is available for working parents from the end of paid parental leave. On average, this will save working parents the equivalent of £2,670 a year.

Shared parental leave gives families a proper choice for the first time:

This new system means that couples can decide for themselves how to share time off after their baby is born. This could mean more time together at home as a family in the early weeks, or dad taking additional leave a few months later on, for example when mum returns to work. For some couples it might make sense for dad to take most of the leave. Shared Parental Leave is an important step towards the wider cultural change we need – where fathers feel empowered to take time off to look after their children and not be held back by outdated stereotypes. As a new(ish) mum myself I know how crucial a role dads play in their children’s lives.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Stevan Rose 12th Apr '15 - 2:41pm

    So remind me – why am I, having made a choice not to have children, obliged to subsidise the parenting choices of others?

    “On average, this will save working parents the equivalent of £2,670 a year.” Plus or including the other £2,000?

    Either way enough to buy the kid a pony and look after it then. Society has a responsibility to look after kids whose parents cannot for one reason or another. Absolutely. No question about it. If the money exists why are we not spending it on educating kids in Africa and the Indian sub-continent so they don’t have to scavenge on garbage heaps. Whose pony am I buying and why? Must be plenty of votes in bribing parents. Please tell me this is not another tax cut for higher and top rate tax payers and is targeted only at those parents who really need the help?

  • Philip Thomas 12th Apr '15 - 2:56pm

    Because children are our future. In your old age, the people looking after you (in every way) will be those who were children today.

  • Stevan Rose 12th Apr '15 - 6:14pm

    ” the people looking after you (in every way) will be those who were children today.”

    And they’ll do just as good a job without the pony today. Why is it that those who choose parenthood seem to think others should subsidise them via taxes and cover their work for increasingly lengthy periods. Very selfish and anti-social. Target the resources at ending child poverty and abuse instead.

  • Philip Thomas 12th Apr '15 - 6:37pm

    Why is it that some of those who don’t choose parenthood “seem to think” they “should subsidise” those who do “via taxes and cover their work for increasingly lengthy periods”? (I have no children).

    Do you think the state should pay for children to be educated, or is that an unreasonable subsidy by the childless?

  • This is excellent – well done Jo. Hoping to make use of this around April next year!

  • Stevan Rose 13th Apr '15 - 8:37am


    Education fine. Child healthcare fine. Ending child poverty and child abuse great. I support SOS Children’s Villages btw, fantastic operation. My objection is to middle class parents who think they have a right to tax breaks and extended time off at someone else’s expense.

  • Steven Rose

    It is hard to get a proper understanding of your point without knowing who you consider “middle class” so where you would stop benefits for working parents . Is it minimum wage, median salary, and given numerical value would help too. Your exact point could be read many ways without that info.

  • We know that pressure to budget for childcare costs doesn’t just start when a child is two years old

    Pressure to budget for childcare coasts should start before the couple decide to have a child; and if they discover there is not room in their budget to cover childcare costs, they should not have the child, rather than making a lifestyle choice they cannot afford and expecting the rest of us to cover their indulgences.

  • A Social Liberal 13th Apr '15 - 1:00pm

    Whilst I disagree totally with Stevan Rose’ arguments, he is right on one point. This is a policy which will not touch the working poor and is therefore aimed the UKs well off.

    Unless parents are paid at least the minimum wage (and paid by central government since most businesses could not afford the extra costs) whilst on shared leave then those who are on low wages will not be able to afford to take up a Lib Dem governments offer.

    This is essentially a good idea but aimed, as Stevan Rose says, squarely at the well off middle classes.

  • Stevan Rose

    To help you put your measure of “middle class” in context:
    In Gross income a one person household on minimum wage:
    A two person household
    Assuming a 40 hour working week.

    And from:

    To help you set it in terms of quintiles:
    Lowest 20% – gross £4,250 pa, net £8,528
    20% – 40% – gross £9,125 pa, net £17,420
    40% – 60% – gross £14,425 pa, net £26,260
    60% – 80% – gross £21,700 pa, net £37,752
    Highest 20% – gross £42,875 pa, net £69,732

    More details if you need them are:

    A Social Liberal

    The thing to remember about some benefits that target “the middle class” is that too many policies are often constructed without looking at the marginal effect. A weakness of the old benefit system was it could result in a marginal loss rate from employment of over 100%, the same can be true of policies for children where the return to work parent (mostly the mother) can have high marginal loss rates, which in the long term are going to exacerbate the “parenthood pay gap” so policies may not be purely targeted at simply “the poorest” but are intended (as this is) to have some other social outcome.

  • An additional point that is not clear from the above
    “We are also introducing Tax Free Childcare to save working families up to £2,000 per child per year from September.”
    As I understand it, this is replacing the old system so it only applies to families where both parents are working, the implication on the returning parent who may need to retrain (change in career to more parent friendly sector etc) is that the old system worked better.

  • Sorry, I don’t get how people can conclude this policy is aimed at the “well off middle class”. The paternity leave is available to all, the only constraint being the view individual employer take of it and the hurdles they may erect. I’ve always been of the opinion that as a small business, I should be able to pay a slightly higher level of employers NI and shift much of the cost liability these social initiatives back onto the government and hence help reduce the problems these initiatives cause small businesses.

    The other measures are quite correctly directed at the child and effectively only available if taken up. Also those who have an aversion to “middle class” people, should ask themselves do they want to encourage the establishment of a two tier pre-school system, given our experience with a two tier school system…

    Also just who are the “middle class”? at various times I’ve been a basic rate taxpayer, higher rate taxpayer and a zero/negative rate taxpayer. Just because last year I paid higher rate tax does not mean that I will next year and the year after that… One of the lessons from the 2008 financial crash was just how vulnerable people were across the social spectrum, only those with substantial assets (ie. those who could regard work as a hobby) were largely immune.

  • Stevan Rose 13th Apr '15 - 7:01pm

    Given the vested interests of parents I did expect to be in a tiny minority. My first post clarified what I meant – higher and top rate taxpayers who believe others should be compelled to subsidise their parenting choices via the tax system and extended paid time off. Jo Swinson for example. If resources exist then they should be directed at the elimination of child poverty and child abuse. Across the world not just in the paid. So draw the line where you think real need ends and nice to have self-interest starts. I’m middle class by the way. I choose to help kids that really need it.

  • Stevan Rose 13th Apr '15 - 7:03pm

    Not just in the UK that should read. Must turn off weird autocorrect.

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