13 February 2015
Under the plans, fathers would be offered four weeks off work at £260 per week.
An entitlement to two weeks paternity leave has been in place since 2003, but Labour says that only about 55% of new fathers take the full two weeks due to the financial pressures they are under.
Three in four fathers who are on low incomes do not take up their full entitlement.
Miliband said; “At the same time as women are under pressure in their careers, more fathers want to play a hands-on role in childcare, particularly in those first crucial weeks of a child’s life.
“Thanks to the last Labour government, fathers have two weeks’ paid paternity leave. Millions of families have benefited with parents saying this has helped them support each other, share caring responsibilities and bond with their children.
“But the money isn’t great and too many Dads don’t take up their rights because they feel they have to go back so they can provide for their family.”
The plans were discussed by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) last year. Unsurprisingly the business lobby has reacted negatively to the prospect.
The IPPR estimates that four weeks paternity leave at the level of 40 hours at the national minimum wage would cost £150m in 2015/16. This is based on the assumption that take-up will increase from 55 to 70%.
Shared parental leave
Shared parental leave will come into force in April. It will enable those eligible to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed for adoption.
While on the surface shared parental leave is a step forward for employment equality, the regulations do not go far enough. To be eligible both mother and father must be economically active and will need to have been in their jobs for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due. Maternity leave is available for mothers from day one of their employment. Concerns that the legislation would have very little impact were voiced at the time of its passing through parliament.
Analysis released by the TUC last week shows that two in five new fathers wont qualify. In the majority of cases this is due their partner not being in work, or being self-employed. The TUC estimates that around 200,000 more fathers a year would be eligible if these limitations did not apply.