Work Life Balance

Proposed UK Legislation On Paternity Leave Could Bring ‘Mommy Wars’ To A Grinding Halt

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paternity leaveI was already cripplingly depressed that America is one of the only developed nations that doesn’t legislate paid maternity leave for working moms.  Then I read the new proposed UK legislation that would provide “maternity leave” for fathers.  Now I am crying into my coffee, convinced that I was born into the wrong nationality.

Under the plans, fathers will be able to take time off work and claim state benefits throughout most of the first year of their baby’s life – if the mother returns to employment.  The mother will be able to return to work after just a fortnight.

Legislation that removes the work/parenting conundrum for mothers – pinch me.  This could bring the “mommy wars” to a grinding halt.  No more assuming that mothers are the only ones who have to choose, parenting or career?

Under the current system, mothers are legally entitled to 90 per cent of their earnings for the first six weeks after birth.  They can then receive a maternity allowance for an additional 33 weeks. Fathers are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave and mothers can transfer their leave to their partners after the first six months.

The new system will mean that either the mother or father can claim parental leave and the allowance after two weeks.

Marissa Mayer – the Yahoo CEO that returned to work days after giving birth – would have caused no ruffles under this legislation.  Clearly, she’s the breadwinner of the family – of course she has to return to work after a “fortnight.” (I had to Google it too – it’s 14 days).  Instead of applauding her decision, some slammed her for seemingly shunning the importance of motherhood.  Many women thought she set the bar too high.  Now I am convinced that staggering inequality and the current war on women is brainwashing us all.

American women make up almost half of the workforce. We also vote more.  In 2008 65.7 percent of eligible women voted, as compared with 61.5 percent of men.  It seems the gender gap is subconsciously crippling us. We have more power than we think we do.  When we look at places like the UK that actually take a woman’s role in the workforce seriously, it is pretty clear that change can happen.

In addition to giving women the professional respect that they deserve, laws like this remind us that fathers are parents, too.  I would happily welcome the dawn of the Daddy Wars.  More blogs devoted to fatherhood.  More arguments about why men choose to return to work “so soon” after the birth of their child.  When we refuse to accept that mothers can return to work after having a child, we also discount a father’s important role in raising his children.

Sadly, as the only developed nation that doesn’t legislate any paid maternity leave, we are really far behind.  But since we need to start championing legislation anyway, maybe we can use this as a model.

(photo: oksix/ Shutterstock)