The BBC recently reported on proposed changes to maternity leave, designed, apparently to make it more equal. These changes, would see paid maternity leave cut from nine months, to six months, with Fathers allowed to take 4 months before the child reaches the age of 5, as paternity leave.
On paper this may seem like a great idea, and would certainly be a step towards moving British maternity leave arrangements in line with some of the more equal arrangements which can be found in Europe. However, cutting Maternity leave from 6 months to 9 months, when only 6 weeks of that leave is currently paid at 90% of the mothers earnings, and the rest is paid at a statutory rate of £117 is a terrible idea, which will impact very negatively on Mothers in low inome families in particular. That’s before you get to the hideous hetronormative slant to these changes- what leave for example does the non child bearing mother of a child born to two women get? And what leave do gay men get when they have a child? Once again the government has conveniently ignored any families that do not fit a ‘traditional’, hetrosexual mould. What happens if the Mother is the main breadwinner or doesn’t WANT to stay at home for 6 months? Can her partner take the leave she could have taken?
I really think that more equal leave for parents following the birth of a child is an absolute neccessity. Having a baby is a massive strain both physically and emotionally and having a second parent at home not only allows a new or expanded family time to recover, it also allows them time to bond and form a cohesive family unit. What I would like to see is paid, flexible leave that can be taken by any parent of a child at any point in the first year following the birth/adoption of a child. This would allow for both parents to be off in any combination they can think of. This would mean that rather than a one size fits all apporach, families are able to work out something that fits them best and allows for both parents to properly enjoy time off with their new child and each other, without being under pressure to return to work.