Sharing maternity leave with fathers

(39 Posts)
LonelyCloud Tue 09-Oct-12 15:14:56

Yesterday at work, the subject of maternity leave came up in conversation. I mentioned the recent legislation that allows fathers to take up to 26 weeks of the mothers maternity leave (assuming certain conditions are met).

One of my (female) colleagues was quite shocked to learn about this. She said that she didn't see how it could work, that men wouldn't want to do it, and it would be terrible for small businesses if they had to worry about men started taking 6 months paternity leave whenever they liked, and how they might stop employing men who looked like they might become fathers. I pointed out that this isn't exactly a new problem for small businesses, because women already have the right to a years materity leave.

My colleage then said that maternity leave for women only was okay, because small businesses could just choose not to employ women of childbearing age hmm When I said that this would be illegal, she was very emphatic about this being absolutely morally okay for businesses to do, and said that it shouldn't be illegal anyway.

I was quite shocked to hear these views from my colleague - especially as this female colleague is a single mother in her early 30's with two young daughters, and is therefore suggesting it's okay for employers to reject her (and her daughters when they're older) on grounds of her age and gender.

There's not really much point to this story, but it was very depressing to hear a woman attack maternity rights, and to be so opposed to the notion of allowing fathers to take extra paternity leave if the mother wants to return to work before a full year.

I know it's not for everyone, but personally I see it as a positive step that gives families more options and challenges the viewpoint that childcare should be primarily the mothers responsibility. Is my opinion on this really so unusual?

xkcdfangirl Tue 09-Oct-12 15:36:04

I'm right with you OP, and I agree with you that it's both shocking and depressing to hear someone in that situation thinking that sexual discrimination is OK.

I think it's brilliant that mat leave can be shared. I'm the main "breadwinner" in my family, we couldn't survive on just DH's pay (though it's significant enough that it would be pretty tough without it) so I once said to my dad that if he wanted grandchildren the best thing he could do was lobby his MP for equal-access-to-parental-leave-for-fathers. Bless him, he did too. The change was too-slow-coming and the end of my thirties was looming but we managed a similar arrangement with DH's emloyers letting him have a six month sabbatical off work and our parents clubbing together to help with the equivalent of mat-pay. Now it can happen more automatically that's great - don't know if I'll still be fertile by the time I ramp up the courage to think about a DC2, but it's great to know the option is there for future people in our situation.

OneMoreChap Tue 09-Oct-12 15:56:02

It's ridiculous.

Anything that encourages men to take a more wholesome part in their kids upbringing, and doesn't relegate childcare to "something for women" is to be applauded.

In this day and age we should be encouraging family flexibility, and if it lets women who want to to get back to work, while allowing early care from the family for the kids it has to be good surely?

Sad that it's a woman who thinks employers should discriminate against women who might have kids... this might also make them focus their minds on the fact that men have kids too.

Takver Tue 09-Oct-12 17:07:48

Agree, I think everything that encourages men to take equal responsibility for their children is great.

And <cynical> I guess at least it would level the playing field if employers started rejecting men of 'childbearing' age as well as women . . .

TeaAndHugs Tue 09-Oct-12 17:21:48

I think it's a fantastic idea and highly sensible. Not allowing the couple to split the roles within their relationship as they see fit is blatantly sexist.

sayanything Tue 09-Oct-12 17:29:38

I completely agree OP, I'd love it if my DH could share my maternity leave entitlement. DS2 is only 5 weeks but I'm already climbing the walls with boredom and green with envy at DH going to the office every day. Yes, I'm BF so the mechanics of that would be difficult, but I don't get the assumption that it is the mother who absolutely has to stay at home with the baby and I resent the sexist pigeon-holing that this inevitably leads to.

I think it's crazy that in 2012 there is still this idea that mothers can stay home for 9 months and fathers for 2 weeks. I mean seriously!

I have however seen female small business owners here on MN say outright they do not hire women specifically because they can't cope with maternity leaves. It's shameful and I think the best reason for introducing parental leave, so people can't discriminate so much.

xkcdfangirl Tue 09-Oct-12 17:49:45

sayanything I completely know how you feel - it's a really difficult stage at the moment but it will get better (as I hope you experienced with DS1).

Don't dismiss the idea out of hand solely due to breastfeeding - obviously it's not practical right now but for an older baby it will be perfectly feasible for you to go back to work, and express some BM at work each day for DS to drink next day - so if there aren't other barriers then DH could perhaps take over for the last 2 or 3 months of your planned Leave period. It made a huge difference to us that DH did this, he really got to appreciate quite how difficult being a SAHP is and our family is much stronger because of the experience.

kim147 Tue 09-Oct-12 18:40:04

I think it would "set the ball rolling" and see childcare responsibilities when 2 people are working as the responsibility of both parents - not just the mum. Maybe this would encourage both parents to take time off when children are ill or need appointments and to fix their work around their family needs.

BikeRunSki Tue 09-Oct-12 18:47:58

My male line manager has recently taken the last three months of his wife's maternity leave. I am so proud of him!

avenueone Tue 09-Oct-12 20:32:13

It makes me want to weep when females have such views, I often wonder if it is because they are insecure and feel that, they need that role all for themselves.

I run a small business - 90% of my staff are female, I have no concerns about maternity leave. Some females are loosing the excuse `but he earns more than me' and are in need of other reasons to not let the man in. Men are running out of excuses to not take the/any time off. I look forward to the future when things continue to evolve and females realises it is better for everyone to share care.

avenueone Tue 09-Oct-12 20:33:20

and men are looked down on by their peers if they don't... in late and eating dinner at the same time.

WhenLifeGivesYouLemons Tue 09-Oct-12 20:36:19

sayanything I'm nervous about bfing as well at work :S I have had to raise issues at work about their treatment of pg workers so making demands for breaks for bfing breaks etc is a bit intimidating atm.

OP- This totally frustrates me. Why is it costly to let a woman have ML but not a man! She's so young to have such old-fashioned opinions

LonelyCloud Tue 09-Oct-12 21:17:34

Glad to see I'm not alone in my views!

But I'm still baffled by my colleague's attitude. I wonder if avenueone's theory about some women wanting the parenting role all to themselves is behind it? It's the only theory that's making any sense at the minute, given my colleague's personal circumstances.

avenueone Tue 09-Oct-12 22:04:37

A certain section of society which in my opinion is still dominant, enforces the message that, that is how women should think/feel and the same for why some men feel they should not care equally. With a little help from people like you explaining the other argument in a non confrontational way change will happen.

It always pisses me off when small businesses are trotted out in this argument, as if the only possible target of blame here is evil, evil women who take maternity leave or, now, their partners. Because it would of course be beyond the capacities of man to re-jig the system and provide more support for small businesses, wouldn't it?

Obviously, with our current government, it would! But it shouldn't be.

Himalaya Wed 10-Oct-12 07:33:32

I think these kinds of attitudes are depressingly common.
I wonder how many men feel free to take extended PL without feeling that it makes them look less serious and committed at work.

I would like to see some of it as a use-it-or-loose-it allowance so it becomes more normal for men to take the time, rather than something transferred from their wives.

Jenijena Wed 10-Oct-12 08:25:33

I'm approaching the end of my six months off, my husband is going to take the next three months (has anyone any experience of this when I tag some annual leave on to the end of my maternity leave period?). DH's employer - a major company you will have heard of, known for flexible working - haven't had a clue, have made up the policy on the spot, and are only just - nearly a year after telling them - getting their heads around his plans. When my husband mentioned to his manager that he might want to work term time only in years to come, his manager's first response was "but we only allow women to do that".

But most of the negative reaction I've had about my arrangement has been from women. "I wouldn't trust my husband, he'd just have the telly on all day and wouldn't do anything" (I do have to wonder what sort of relationship this is). "why would you share your time off when you could have it all to yourself?" (it's not about me, it's about my child). And the classic was from my mil... "but.. What abut his career...?" (what about mine?)

It would have to get more mainstream before guys in their 30s aren't hired for jobs, and these attitudes indicate it isnt going to happn any time soon.

Incidentally, I am planning to continue to breastfeed as much as I can, and my dh does earn more than me.

comixminx Wed 10-Oct-12 08:48:46

How depressing a reaction from your colleague! I am currently at home with DS who is eight weeks old, and DP is really keen on our plan of taking months 6-9 of the mat leave. He's already on a four day week so that we can share care of our two year old DD, so he knows quite a bit of what it's like, without having done the day to day small baby stuff at home. So that obviously is another data point against her saying that no man would want to do it.

Does your company do any kind of discrimination training at all, OP? We had a very good (company-wide)session about a year ago; it included mat leave of course, including the "not hiring because of being a woman" red herring. The women present really got stuck in to the discussion about that topic! It really helps clarify the points around the subject, and it could well have changed some minds of others who were at the training and hadn't really thought about it very much.

sayanything Wed 10-Oct-12 08:54:22

The problem is that, even if DH wanted to share my maternity leave, he can't. Yes, he can take what little annual leave he has left or he can take leave without pay, but I am the one who is entitled to 24 weeks on full pay (I'm not in the UK) and he cannot share that, as the OP was pointing out. I would definitely try to make BF work (with pumping or BF breaks) if DH was allowed to take over and I do think it's feasible (though difficult), which is another reason I don't understand limiting parental leave to mothers.

LonelyCloud Wed 10-Oct-12 11:11:22

comixminx - the only kind of discrimination training I remember seeing at work was a presentation on age discrimination, back when the legislation changed.

And I only saw that because my line manager forwarded the e-mail to my whole department by mistake (the presentation was meant for senior managers who mght recruit people).

So no training on sex discimination. Just a brief paragraph in the company handbook that pretty much just says "Sex discrimination is bad. Don't do it."

LynetteScavo Wed 10-Oct-12 11:19:31

While, on a political level I can see this is a good thing, on a personal level, there is no way on this earth I would let DH have one day of our maternity leave.

While I can see it will enable woman who want to return to work sooner, I also think woman will have even more pressure put on them to be back at work sooner..

sleepyhead Wed 10-Oct-12 11:40:45

But some of us don't have a choice Lynette, and sharing parental leave lets us put off putting our child in childcare a bit longer.

If dh wasn't able to share my leave (we're hoping to be able to stretch it to 6 months for him), then dc2 would be starting nursery at 6 months. I can't afford to stay off after I stop getting additional mat pay as I'm the higher earner.

More and more women are out-earning their partners. It's nice that legislation has caught up with this fact.

Himalaya Wed 10-Oct-12 12:27:14

Jenijena - "but we only allow women to do that". shock
I don't know why I'm shocked, but you would think that major companies would give their managers some kind of training on non-discrimination. Sigh.

OneMoreChap Wed 10-Oct-12 12:53:18

LynetteScavo
While, on a political level I can see this is a good thing, on a personal level, there is no way on this earth I would let DH have one day of our maternity leave.

<boggle>
And how would you feel if your DH would in no way let you have any of your joint money?

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