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AIBU to think that paternity leave policy is unfair…

(144 Posts)
Wombat12 Mon 01-Apr-19 17:41:54

I’m currently a full-time student and my DH works full-time. We’d like to start a family after I graduate. I’d have 2-3 months between the end of my course and the start of my job contract (guaranteed) so we’d aim to have the baby in that period/just before (as much as you can ever plan these things!) and our plan was then for me to start working full-time and my DH to take on the role of primary caregiver. So we looked into shared parental leave…

It seems that unless I am working for the required amount prior to my due date (26 weeks in the 66 weeks before earning at least £390 in total across 13 of those weeks) my DH won’t be entitled to any leave beyond the minimum 2 weeks. If I was working I could transfer my leave entitlement to DH. I might be being unreasonable but it seems unfair to me that my DH’s ability to take leave depends on my working status not on his own. If the situation was reversed my leave wouldn’t depend on his working status and I’d not be impressed if it did!

I appreciate this wouldn’t normally be a problem and I could just get a part-time job. However, unfortunately the course I’m studying doesn’t really allow any time for a job and it’s strongly recommended we don't have one, especially in our final year. Any suggestions of possible part-time jobs that would meet the minimum criteria and not be too time intensive really appreciated.

Sorry if I’ve explained this poorly!

NameChangeNugget Tue 02-Apr-19 21:03:44

2/10 This can’t be real biscuit

acciocat Tue 02-Apr-19 21:00:45

Completely agree LisaSimpson. People look at me in amazement nowadays when I say I was back at work with a 12 week old. They say no way could they have done it. Of course they’d have managed it, if they were giving birth 25 years ago. It was totally normal.

And you’re spot on about bf too. Bf rates have far more to do with the educational level and socio economic status of the mother than whether she works or not. I and my professional mum friends who returned to work quickly were mostly avid breast feeders who continued feeding well after returning to work.

LisaSimpsonsbff Tue 02-Apr-19 20:55:59

Yep, that's exactly what I got/get (DS is still only 9 months, DH is about to go back to work soon) too. At my antenatal breastfeeding class when I asked about expressing for when I went back to work I got a sad face from the midwife and 'well, if there's really no other option but for you to go back so soon then...'. I got told at baby groups a lot that 'I just couldn't do it, I couldn't bear to be away from them', i.e. I love my baby more than you love yours.

It's actually been fine since being back at work as a shortish mat leave and then back to work full time is quite normal in academia. I was so worried that I'd be unexpectedly devastated once I was back at work, but it was actually fine once I got away from baby and toddler groups and all the 'well, you do you, hun [while I judge you both to your face and behind your back]'

Jessgalinda Tue 02-Apr-19 20:47:24

I think it makes a massive difference what is 'normal' around you. I went back to work at 6 months and I don't know a single other British woman my age who went back 'so soon' - I've received a lot of criticism and hostility for it (much of it veiled as sympathy).

This exactly happened to me.

I went back when ds was 6 months. No SPL though, it came in soon after.

So much 'oh shame you had to come back so soon' and 'oh I dont know how you can face working full time' or 'is money a problem for you're

I was quite unashamedly blunt. No, I was back at work because I wanted to be back at work. Dh worked evenings, I worked during the day and didnt need childcare so chose to come back to carry in my career.

Lots of women seemed really put out by me.

I find it now. I work full time and a single parent. So many people ask me why I dont work part time and 'are you sure you can manage?'

It's never men that judge though. They usually say something like 'wow you just be busy anyway, that spreadsheet'

LisaSimpsonsbff Tue 02-Apr-19 20:35:27

In my experience women seem more against than men. In my social circle and at work women seem horrified at the thought of them coming back and husbands being off

As a couple who have done SPL, this has very much been our experience. Men kept telling me that they would do it but their wives 'wouldn't let them', I rolled my eyes and thought 'yeah, right' but actually it is true that women in my anecdotal experience have been VERY hostile to it and incredulous that I would 'give up my time off work' (!).

Perhaps those of us who had babies back in the 80s and 90s have a different mindset because the thought of a whole year off seems so generous that we’d gladly share it!

I think it makes a massive difference what is 'normal' around you. I went back to work at 6 months and I don't know a single other British woman my age who went back 'so soon' - I've received a lot of criticism and hostility for it (much of it veiled as sympathy). I was talking to my friend who lives in Brussels and went back at 5 months and she felt completely differently because there her mat leave was seen as pretty long - I felt like I was practically leaving a newborn at 6 months and she didn't feel like that at all.

People are obsessed with the breastfeeding issue whenever SPL is raised on MN, and I'm not a great example here because I did end up ending breastfeeding when I went back to work (not my original intention). But since that still meant I breastfed longer than 2/3rds of British women, I think it's a bit of a red herring to act like SPL would make any difference to breastfeeding for most women.

rainingoutside Tue 02-Apr-19 19:56:51

Really interesting report published very recently about the levels of fathers taking leave in EU countries here: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/customised-report/2019/parental-and-paternity-leave-uptake-by-fathers

Very relevant to this discussion is that it has a table near the start summarising the entitlements in each country and there are several where the leave is an * individual* right, not tied to the mother only (so truly assuming equal caregiving). In those countries there are equal options if only one parent works regardless of which one, unlike in the UK. This also means more flexibility if parents prefer a shorter leave period but as a family with both parents off, which is only supported financially here if mother works.

acciocat Tue 02-Apr-19 18:09:19

Jessgalinda- agree that ime it seems to be the women who are reluctant to share it. Perhaps those of us who had babies back in the 80s and 90s have a different mindset because the thought of a whole year off seems so generous that we’d gladly share it! I also think we were generally more militant then.... I guess we were the first generation to have any of these rights at all. Before us, women often had to give up work when they had babies, and there were very few childcare options anyway. Then suddenly it became more normal for women to continue in the workplace, albeit after a very short ML. Among the professional women I knew, we were very much of a mind that parents were equal and we expected our husbands to be hands on with the babies and around the home. I think as well, with such short ML it kind of forced you into having to share the load. If I’d been off for a year I think I’d have developed a whole new routine and found it quite hard to get back into work mode

Jessgalinda Tue 02-Apr-19 18:01:38

LisaSimpsonsbff I doubt many of those women would take it.

In my experience women seem more against than men. In my social circle and at work women seem horrified at the thought of them coming back and husbands being off.

I have been there 8 months. One man took it and it didnt damage his career at all. Alot of men admired him and talked about how they wish they had that available when they had kids.

Again it was the women who looked a bit confused when said he was going off. Lots of 'but why doesnt she want to be at home' and 'oh I couldn't have left my child at 6 months'. Lots of women seemed really put out by a man taking it.

acciocat Tue 02-Apr-19 17:18:25

LisaSimpson I really wish I knew the answer! I’ve heard women say they don’t want to share the leave because of bf, but tbh given babies are weaned from around 6 months it wouldn’t be a problem to transfer the last few months. Besides, my friends and I all continued bf and we returned to work with 3 month olds.
I really am as certain as I can be that if shared leave had been an option 25 years ago we’d have jumped at it- it would have been so beneficial for the children to have that 1:1 experience with each parent.
Also, although going back to work was tough with a 3 month old, equally I don’t think I’d have wanted a whole year off which seems a long time out of one’s career, and I might have felt very out of the loop by then. 6 months would have suited me perfectly, with dh taking perhaps another 3

Seniorschoolmum Tue 02-Apr-19 16:57:52

Op , I love your optimism, and your faith in the system.

When I announced I was pregnant, my employer just fired me. Which would drive a coach & horses through your plans.

Perhaps at least get into your job before planning your maternity leave. smile

minipie Tue 02-Apr-19 16:46:10

LisaSimpsonsbff I would agree with your proposal - despite having had 12 months off myself whilst DH had two weeks. The reasons we didn’t split the leave more equally were mainly to do with perception - we thought a long leave would be seen as “normal” for a woman but “uncommitted to career” for a man so would have a greater impact on DH than on me. It’s a vicious circle, if hardly any men take it then men are worried about how it will come across if they do. I regret it now as it embedded my role as primary parent to my detriment. I think “use it or lose it” leave for dads would go a long way to making it more commonly taken and more “acceptable” practice.

Alsohuman Tue 02-Apr-19 16:39:53

I’d have liked any kind of parental leave! Women largely stopped work until their kids started school where I lived. My husband had one day off when we came out of hospital, that was it. It was awful and I’m very glad it’s no longer so uncivilised. I think the poor take up of shared parental leave might be because men can’t afford it.

stucknoue Tue 02-Apr-19 16:29:26

I would add that all the "advice" does depend a bit on your age, if you are close to 40 it is a very different equation to if you are 21! I'm not sure what programme you have a place on but most graduate schemes are pretty full on as they don't expect their employees to have home responsibilities - even the handful of postgrads with kids really find it hard.

LisaSimpsonsbff Tue 02-Apr-19 16:11:18

I hear a lot of women who had their children in the 80s/90s say that they'd have loved shared parental leave, and would definitely have used it - and I find that hard to square with how few do use it now. Have things really gone backwards in terms of equality in the household? Or is there some wishful thinking there from some (not all!) of these women? I've met a lot of women who when they hear we've done it say, 'oh, we thought about that BUT...' - I think a lot more people think they'd do it before they have children than actually do.

acciocat Tue 02-Apr-19 15:18:02

Alsohuman- absolutely.
I also find it sad that so few couples take up Shared parental leave. Having lived through the era when our husbands were literally back at work the day after we gave birth, and we were back at work ourselves with 3 month old babies... we’d have given our right arm to have the options available now.

A pp said I was implying ‘we had it tough, so should you.’ They clearly have no understanding of my generation. We were the ones bloody fighting for better legislation. I’m delighted that my own children will benefit from far better terms than we did. Just gobsmacked when people complain in the ridiculous way the OP did

Alsohuman Tue 02-Apr-19 13:50:40

I’m very happy it’s better now than I was a young mum. That’s what my generation of feminists worked to achieve. What I am unhappy about is people whining that it’s still unfair. It really isn’t.

acciocat Tue 02-Apr-19 13:22:59

I suspect the OP just invented this scenario to highlight her perceived injustice, and has now disappeared because it’s been pointed out that nothing is unfair or discriminatory... she won’t be in work and therefore won’t get the terms and conditions of being in work.

I mean... I could complain that I don’t get a company car when some of my friends do. But I have the choice to go and get a job with a company car if that’s what I want.

If the OP is genuine, then she simply needs to do what everyone else does and be in work for sufficient time to qualify, and then she can take ML and merrily transfer most of it to her dh. But as she’s not working, she can’t. Blimey, I wish shared leave had been a thing when i had my kids. The OP has way more options than mothers have had at any time in history. Yet she chooses to complain on the ridiculous basis that she should get the perks of being in employment without actually ... being in employment!

Ginger1982 Tue 02-Apr-19 11:15:38

Where's the OP gone...? 🤔

acciocat Tue 02-Apr-19 09:34:20

Today 07:06 PoesyCherish

Despairing because things were bad before is a pretty selfish and horrible attitude to take. It's a "I had a it bad so why should you have it so much better" kind of attitude

Except I’m not taking that attitude. I think it’s great that legislation has come so far. I’m glad my dd will benefit from a year long ML should she want it, and that she’ll get the benefit of free nursery hours for her kids.

I’m just astonished that despite the generous leave available now, the OP is complaining that she can’t benefit from things that you need to be in work to qualify for. If you’re not working, you don’t qualify for ML - simple. Her dh if he’s working will qualify for paternity leave. She’s not being discriminated against. Nothing is unfair. Other women who decide to have a baby while not in employment wouldn’t be any better off than her.

LisaSimpsonsbff Tue 02-Apr-19 09:27:45

I suppose the real alternative is to cut maternity leave to 26 weeks then add on the extra leave solely for the other partner on a 'use it or lose it' basis. I'm not opposed to that (but then I wouldn't be, it's exactly how we split the leave anyway), but it's wildly unpopular on MN whenever anyone suggests it, and I suspect - given that around 3% of couples used SPL anyway - that would be the general reaction from the electorate to such a proposed plan.

LisaSimpsonsbff Tue 02-Apr-19 09:24:53

There seems to be a misconception on this thread that you can do shared parental leave if a father was previously unemployed or a student - you can't, the conditions are:

*You and your partner must:

have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date
stay with the same employer while you take SPL
be ‘employees’ (not ‘workers’)
each earn on average at least £116 a week

So there's no situation where a previously unemployed person can claim the SMP. It is true that if a woman previously worked and her husband didn't she can still claim her own SMP - given that then the whole family would be living off SMP and nothing else I suspect the number of people doing this is very small.

I still don't see how it could be possibly be resolved if both parents wanted to take the leave if there wasn't the 'default parent'? At the moment the mother gets final say - I can see why people don't like that, but I don't see an alternative, really. Of course most couples can sort it out amongst themselves but you have to legislate for the extremes - completely uninvolved fathers who decide they want to take SPL, forcing their ex back to work, for instance - and I think the current situation is a practical solution to that.

Cheeserton Tue 02-Apr-19 09:09:14

Sorry, but you don't accrue full labour rights without working. That's how the world works. Also, good luck with planning your baby to the nearest month. You do realise it can take years, right?

Jessgalinda Tue 02-Apr-19 08:50:13

Which countries?

I would like to see how that works. Because I can imagine that causes all sorts of problems.

And I imagine changing fro the current system to on where mothers effectively lose 26 weeks of mat leave to give to men wont go down well with anyone.

And I wonder how many women need more than 'the initial' recovery period off and how that impacts them.

corythatwas Tue 02-Apr-19 08:42:00

What would a new system, where maternity leave is not linked to giving birth, actually look like? Would it be 2 weeks off (4 in some sectors) paid on sick leave terms to the person who gave birth, then a 'new child allowance' (covering both adoption and birth DC) which can be taken by either parent?

That's how it works in some other countries. Initial leave for mother to recover, but most of the leave is for baby care which can be done by either parent.

Cecedrake8989 Tue 02-Apr-19 08:41:55

Just have a baby after working for a year. It's ridiculous to plan pregnancy for your final few months of uni and then start your new job with a newborn. Just wait until you've been working a year or so. Not at all unfair that you can't just have the exact perfect situation that you want. Most people can't, just how the world works.

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