Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies

University of Bath expert available to comment on new flexible parental leave after childbirth

Tue Nov 13 11:20:00 GMT 2012

Dr Susan Milner from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies responded to today's announcement that new mothers will be able to return to work two weeks after childbirth and share the rest of their maternity leave with their partner.

Dr Milner said the UK has been falling behind other European countries in terms of support for working fathers.

She said: "The proposals announced today for flexible, shared leave after childbirth or adoption go in the right direction because they send a strong signal that childcare is not just for mothers: it's a fathers' business too. There is a lot of evidence now that fathers want to get more involved. However, the new proposals, if enacted, will need to be reviewed carefully in practice, because we already know that voluntary arrangements aren't necessarily strong enough to give fathers the entitlement they need.

"Measures that work best are those that reserve a certain portion for fathers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, sometimes called a dad's quota.  Otherwise, it's too easy to let mothers continue to take responsibility by continuing their maternity leave. This new proposal is likely to be taken up by those fathers already in a position to take advantage of it, but may not have as wide an effect on behaviour as the government hopes.

"Likewise, the proposals to extend the right to extend flexible working are to be welcomed. They go along with what advocacy groups, and a lot of employers have been saying for a long time: that, in the words of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Britain needs a 'new language of flexibility'. But this measure also needs to be reviewed carefully in practice. There is a danger that in tough economic times employers will just find it easier to reject requests on business grounds, and employees may be too scared to ask."

To interview Dr Milner contact the University press office:

Tel: +44 (0)1225 386 319 or +44 (0)7966 341 431