Equalising parental leave – yes please!

Finally a Government announcement I actually welcome. I guess after two years there was bound to be at least one along sometime.

I’m talking about recent announcements on equalising the approach to maternity and paternity leave. After a compulsory two weeks off for the mum post-birth parents can decide for themselves how to split up to one year of m/paternity leave between them.

This seems to me to be the only way to begin to chip away at the pay and career differentials that beset women once they start to consider having children. As long as there is a massive potential difference between women and men’s post-baby work life there will be discrimination*.

There are also self-imposed barriers too. As someone who has had one child and is well into pregnancy number two I know this has impacted on my approach to my career. I’ve seen men at similar life stages switch jobs, take promotions and put work first in a way I never felt I could.

For me all potential job moves have had to be scrutinised for the maternity package. Any change in role had to be weighed up against the delay this would have put onto my plans for a second baby. I’m not saying any of this was or is wrong. But it’s not something that at present is ever a factor for men. And this inevitably leads to men leaping further ahead.

There are still some issues with the policy I think. No mention is given about pay. It’s vital men have equal access to m/paternity pay on the same grounds as women. Otherwise the same old patterns will remain and true choice won’t be given. And men who’s partners aren’t in work should also be eligible to take leave.

I am annoyed at the voices saying that this will have a massive impact on business. There is no more leave per baby available. It’s just going to be available on a more equal footing. I think what these people are really acknowledging is that men get recruited to roles that wouldn’t be given to women. Or at least not those women likely to have kids. So all of a sudden what a shock we’ll face if those men start to take a share of post-baby leave. These men are clearly so vital to our economy, in a way that women aren’t, that the impact would be apocalyptic. What nonsense! And what a great reason in itself to remove this additional hurdle to women’s career progression.

* I realise that there are many other barriers to women’s progression at work and that this is one issue in many. But as a pregnant woman this is very much on my mind so forgive the neglect of the other issues just now.

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