Jo Swinson MP writes….The next steps for shared parental leave

Today marks the 4th anniversary of shared parental leave – one of my proudest achievements as Employment Relations Minister. Shared Parental Leave is good for children, good for families and good for equality in the workplace.

I was so happy that last year when Gabriel was born, Duncan and I were able to share our parental leave and take it in turns to get to know our newest family member. I got to help Gabriel figure out how to roll over and sit up, and by the time Duncan took over he was busy weaning Gabriel onto solid food. It also meant I could come back to work for six weeks last summer to do my summer tour in East Dunbartonshire and to go to Lib Dem Conference in Brighton.

And I couldn’t think of a better way to mark the anniversary than to spend it with some wonderful dads!

We had eight fathers – and two little ones — join us yesterday morning to talk about shared parental leave and their experience of fatherhood. It was so great to hear about the joys and challenges they have faced.

One of the dads who had only gone back to work this week after six months of taking care of his little boy described it as the ‘best six months of his life’. He and his wife had four months off work together and that really helped them learn together about parenting and reduced the time where one parent is left home, trying to figure it all out and sort through the endless advice and information online.

Others agreed how important it was for them to experience bringing up a baby on their own, getting to know the various tricks to keep baby happy, understanding the mundanity of play, eat, sleep and repeat and just how little time that leaves you for yourself.

We also talked about how government and employers can make things even better for parents.

Employers should have better training for managers and encourage senior management to have better balanced work lives and to talk openly about their caring responsibilities. One father in the group explained how at his company he really felt it wouldn’t have been acceptable for him to take the time away from work and how disappointed he was to have missed out.

Cultural change takes time, but we should accelerate this as much as possible. We need more dads like the ones I met today to talk openly about the joys of fatherhood and share their experience. It’s the best way to challenge the harmful and sexist stereotype of hopeless, hapless dad.

Employers should also enhance shared parental pay at the same rate they do for maternity pay because no parent should miss out on time with their baby. Diageo and O2 both set superb examples this week for others to follow.

And government must do more too. SPL must be extended to self-employed dads, fathers must be given an additional four weeks of use-it-or-lose-it paternity leave and SPL must be a day one right, along with the right to request flexible working.

That is why I have set out these proposals in a Bill I have brought to Parliament this week. If the Government wasn’t bogged down in their own Brexit mess, then they could have delivered this already. Lucky for them, I was good enough to do the hard work for them. All they need to do is back my Bill.

* Jo Swinson is Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire, and was a Minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Equalities Minister from 2012-15.

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One Comment

  • Innocent Bystander 5th Apr '19 - 4:52pm

    Jo,
    Do you see our (few remaining) employers as merely charities for their employees?
    Who will do the work when everyone is at home?
    I

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