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to be suddenly outraged that we have 'maternity' rather than 'parental' leave in this country?

(16 Posts)
designerbaby Tue 09-Oct-12 22:28:19

Probably a bit slow on the uptake here, two children down the line... but two things today made me really think about this.

Sorry this may be long - bit of a brain dump.

Firstly a colleague of mine - we worked together for over 5 years, and both left the agency we were working for a few months apart. She has been working freelance, I set up my own business and she is currently freelancing for me. She would like another permanent position, but is content to freelance until the right one comes up.

The other day she went to a job interview... Now, in our industry things like HR don't really exist and 'interviews' are generally rather informal affairs. However, she was outraged (and rightly IMO) to be asked outright, if she was going to 'disappear for a year to have a baby'. She pointed out that it wasn't a questions they were really allowed to ask (she's German and takes no sh*t) to which they responded - "Ah, so you're obviously thinking about it then...". She came back FUMING because she felt damned either way – even by NOT answering she either came across as trying to hide an agenda or at the very least a bit stroppy, and she (rightly) resented being put in that position.

Because she's 33 and currently childless they assumed that:
a) she wanted children (imminently) and
b) if she had children she would automatically be off for a year to look after them.

Now, there's not much that legislation can do about the former, but if we had 'parental' rather than 'maternity' leave, then it wouldn't be quite so easy to make these kind of sweeping assumptions about which parent would be staying at home with the baby. Because at the moment, there is only one parent who is legally ABLE to stay at home with the baby.

Which is massively prejudicial against women, actually. And even if potential employers don't ask such questions, they may well be thinking it.

And then I was speaking to the mother of a girl at my eldest DDs school, who moved to the UK from Sweden a year ago. And she was talking about how hard it was to be a working mother over here, and that she and her husband had both taken 4 months off each from work after each of their DDs - she the first 4 months and he the second (before putting them in massively more affordable childcare - but that's another thread...).

And I thought - if we had parental leave rather than maternity leave it may not be quite so easy for potential employers to make assumptions about women and maternity leave. Because it might then equally apply to any man they might hire.

Now it may be that the majority of families may well chose the more 'traditional' model. I and my husband probably would have, and I was happy to stay at home with mine for a year each.


We ought to have the choice, no? Rather than assumptions about parental roles being laid down in law?

It just struck me that it's a shocking state of affairs for a country that claims to be all about equality...


eurowitch Tue 09-Oct-12 22:34:38

I agree with you and have thought this for ages. I love the Swedish system. But the law has changed now. Apart from the first few weeks (which the mother has to take), leave can be taken by either parent.

See here:

"Sharing leave

If you are expecting a child on or after 3 April 2011, or you are adopting a child which is matched with you on or after 3 April 2011, you may be able to share leave between yourself and your partner.

If your partner hasn't used up all of their statutory maternity leave and has gone back to work, you can take the remainder of their leave off instead.

This is called additional paternity leave. You can take this after the baby is 20 weeks old but before they are 1 year old. You have to take the leave all in one go.

You have to give your employer notice that you want to take additional paternity leave. You also have to give them evidence that you are entitled to it. This includes a declaration from your partner that they have gone back to work.

If your partner hasn't used up all their entitlement to statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance, you can be paid additional statutory paternity pay for the rest of the time they were entitled to it."

TheDetective Tue 09-Oct-12 22:36:01

There is parental leave now.

designerbaby Tue 09-Oct-12 22:38:27

Ah. Well that's a bit embarassing then, isn't it. blush

Does it work in the same way as maternity leave? With the same rights etc?


AKissIsNotAContract Tue 09-Oct-12 22:40:31

It's frustrating that the leave can only be taken by the man after 20 weeks. I'm the higher earner and wouldn't be able to afford to take that much time off.

Peevish Tue 09-Oct-12 22:42:05

YANBU, of course. It's part of this insane situation that regards the having of children as somehow a 'woman's issue', as if two people, usually of either sex, are not generally involved.

Anonymumous Tue 09-Oct-12 22:42:35

I don't think it would make any difference to employers' assumptions that it would be the Mum taking the leave. Unless at least 50% of couples took the other option, and that is highly unlikely TBH.

LonelyCloud Tue 09-Oct-12 22:42:57

What eurowitch said.

But the right for fathers to take this additional paternity leave is fairly new, so there's probably not as much public awareness of it as there should be.

eurowitch Tue 09-Oct-12 22:44:57

Maternity leave doesn't only affect the woman's career for the time of the leave. It means that the child is likely to want the mother more than the father when he/she is ill. And it builds an expectation that the mother will do the majority of childcare. It is getting better, per my link above, but we are not there yet.

LonelyCloud Tue 09-Oct-12 22:45:14

See link for more detail:

Information on Additional Paternity Leave from Direct Gov

StuntGirl Tue 09-Oct-12 22:45:57

I think there should be parental leave in the way we currently have maternal leave, why have odd stipulations about when it starts? Fathers are parents from the start just like mothers, and in some instances (like kiss upthread) it may be better for the father to take parental leave instead.

wonderstuff Tue 09-Oct-12 22:48:58

I don't think parental leave makes any difference - where I work men are promoted over women all the time and women with young children discouraged from applying for senior jobs because boss needs 'full commitment' i.e. doesn't want you not being able to attend various meetings and evening events because you are having to get back for children.

I am in position where I earn more than dh, so he is first choice to cover child sickness, when he had to go and get dd from nursery one afternoon when she had developed chicken pox his boss quizzically asked him why his wife wasn't going.

Swedish system is fantastic - only way to really get sexual equality imo. But they have an awful lot more money than us to fund it.

purplehouse Tue 09-Oct-12 22:55:58

Having children is a women's issue. Men have not grown wombs and boobs and children cannot be grown in labs. Parenting is an issue for both sexes.

I think that it is obviously wrong for the employer to say that to the interviewee.

However, from the employer's perspective (refereing mainly to v small employers) I do think there is a business risk to be considered re the absence of a key staff member. I would think that statistically, a 33yo childless woman is more likely than not to have a child in the nearish future. I honestly think that this is a serious consideration for a tiny business, which I assume is the case here due to the lack of hr.

catwomanlikesmeatballs Tue 09-Oct-12 23:14:37

The vast majority of parental leave will be taken by women anyway so the same prejudices will still exist.

The length of maternity leave recognises that women go through pregnancy, often need time to physically recover from birth, breastfeed, bond and get into a routine with their baby. Four months doesn't cover that for most women. It would be even worse if employers could expect women to only use half their leave because of a policy for shared leave. It could in the long run lead to leave being cut because it is seen as unnecessary.

designerbaby Tue 09-Oct-12 23:17:13

Not really purplehouse. Our last agency had a staff of 120, and was part of a multinational group. We had no HR. Not all industries are well regulated in this regard.

The point is, as 33 YO woman is more than likely to have a child in the nearish future. But they can't assume that, or ask her. Nor should they assume that she will automatically have a year off to take care of said child...

FWIW my colleague has no intention of doing so. She admits that she won't really know until she's at that point, but, hypothetically her aim would be to have 3 months off and then for her partner to take over, were that to be possible.


sleepyhead Tue 09-Oct-12 23:23:29

I'm on a thread about this at the moment where we're talking about how sharing parental leave with our partners is going to work. I'm delighted that we have the option now.

My plan is to take the 6 months that my employer pays Additional Maternity Pay for and then dh will take 6 months, 3 at statutory mat (pat?) pay rate and 3 unpaid. Dh is the lower earner - I know this isn't the case for all families, but it's becoming more and more common.

I agree that this option is not well known. It only came in to force in April last year and I'm really worried that it'll be one of the things the Tories have lined up for the scrap before it's even got started.

I also agree that it should be up to the couple how the leave is split, apart from maybe a statutory 6 wks for the mother to recover physically from childbirth.

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