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?

WhenLifeGivesYouLemons Thu 11-Oct-12 12:54:29

thanks xkcd sorry for thread sabotage. Am in early stages of labour and the thought just occurred to me :S

xkcdfangirl Wed 10-Oct-12 22:28:10

WLGYL I think you aren't supposed to go back till 2 weeks after the birth, yes. It's four weeks if you work in a factory. see 'Compulsory' section here and it is from your baby's actual date of birth. I think your employers would insist on treating it as longer mat-leave not sick leave if your baby is late as they get money from the government for your mat leave but not for sick leave.

LynetteScavo Wed 10-Oct-12 21:58:43

kim147 - In nearly 14 years of being parents, I have absolutely no complaints about the amount of childcare DH has done. smile (Don't quite get your point about ill child/doctors confused)

avenueone - Yes, I think the child is his too, which is why DH is on the birth certificate of DC1 (we weren't married when he was born) When my DC were small I had a strong animal instinct to be with them and care for them at all times. I seriously think I would have had a breakdown if I had left DC1 before I was ready.

As I say, I realise not everybody is like me, (slightly unhinged and constantly hormonal wink) and therefor, welcome this legislation.

WhenLifeGivesYouLemons Wed 10-Oct-12 21:51:54

Do any of you know how M/L works with regards to the two week compulsory absence following birth. I have arranged to come back to work two weeks following the due date but what if the baby is late? Would I have to take it as sick leave or would it have to be M/L as it is compulsory?

avenueone Wed 10-Oct-12 20:57:32

"Also, if I've been pregnant for nine months, given birth and breast feeding during the night, and unless we would financially really struggling I personally would not pass the child care to DH. ! you have a child with a man you don't want to leave the child with ? don't you think the child is his too?

kim147 Wed 10-Oct-12 20:51:39

"Also, if I've been pregnant for nine months, given birth and breast feeding during the night, and unless we would financially really struggling I personally would not pass the child care to DH. !

Don't you think this will set a precedent later on when your child is ill / needs the doctors? Who will be the one who does that? Will you then complain DH does not do enough childcare?

WidowWadman Wed 10-Oct-12 19:41:34

I like the German model which doesn't only allow sharing the leave, but gives the incentive to share by offering 2 extra months paid leave, if leave is shared.

OneMoreChap Wed 10-Oct-12 19:06:41

... OK, so if it suits you and your DH for him to not be allowed to share the early rearing of DC, I'm pleased it works for you both.

Just a bit of an odd board to read it on, that was all.

LynetteScavo Wed 10-Oct-12 18:39:43

OMC if you mean household money to mean all of mine and DH's earnings, no it is not joint. DH and I don't seem to do things financially the way most other MNetters do (I have no idea what people in RL do, to organise their finances, I've never asked them). But our way suits us very well. smile.

Also, if I've been pregnant for nine months, given birth and breast feeding during the night, and unless we would financially really struggling I personally would not pass the child care to DH. Just my personal view. I used to have nightmares about going to work and leaving DC1 with DH when I was a new mum.

Of course I believe choice is good, and if other mothers want/need to go back to work sooner, and their DH stay at home for a while, I think that it is brilliant those people can choose to do so.

OneMoreChap Wed 10-Oct-12 13:48:53

LynetteScavo I'm sure I misunderstood what you meant.

Presumably the household money is joint money and the parental leave would be joint, too? Or is that just a naive presumption on my part...

LynetteScavo Wed 10-Oct-12 13:28:30

Good point, 8LonelyCloud*, I hope you're right.

LynetteScavo Wed 10-Oct-12 13:27:14

OneMoreChap, I'm not sure that's a comparable situation.

By that thinking, DH taking a considerable amount of the maternity leave would be like him giving me every penny he earns.

LonelyCloud Wed 10-Oct-12 13:16:12

LynetteScavo - I don't agree with your arguement about this legislation putting more pressure on women to return to work early.

I know women who were pressured to return to work early before this legislation came into force - my personal view is that an employer who wants mothers to take minimal maternity leave is going to be pressuring them regardless of whether or not fathers can share maternity leave. I don't think that employers generally care much about what sort of childcare is used, whether it's family, nursery or whatever.

LurcioLovesFrankie Wed 10-Oct-12 13:02:21

I work somewhere where there are quite a lot of couples employed, who both choose to work 4 days a week. I think sharing maternity leave is a brilliant idea. In fact, personally (as a toddler person, who finds babies dull-dull-dull), I'd want a DP to do the first 6 months of colicky hell then I could take over once they were starting to be a bit more mobile and interesting! I realise this is just me, though (and I was shit at breast feeding last time round, so this wouldn't be part of the calculation in my case).

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?

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.

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.

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..

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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