Is extended paternity leave good for women’s careers?

Since April 3 this year, men in the UK can take a greater share in child-rearing. New fathers can now take up to 26 weeks’ leave to care for a child – on top of two weeks’ regular paternity leave. The additional leave is potentially a step towards allowing women to return to work more easily, leaving a new baby in the care of her partner.

However, it is not clear how many men will take up this opportunity. A survey of 1,000 men by uSwitch, the utilities comparison website, showed that 41 per cent would not opt to stay at home, citing fear of losing their jobs or career prospects.

While the very smallest micro-businesses are exempt, organisations that represent the interests of smaller companies, such as the Federation of Small Businesses, have not welcomed the change. More than half the respondents to a survey of 1,300 businesses by the British Chambers of Commerce said the new rules would be damaging.

Women are entitled to six weeks’ maternity leave on 90 per cent pay, followed by 33 weeks on statutory maternity pay of £125 per week, and a further provision to remain off work for up to a year on no pay.

Additional paternity leave takes some of the gender bias out of parental leave, so that couples can plan which parent can more easily take a career break at the time of the birth of a baby.

The new legislation is a welcome step to freeing both men and women from gender-anchored roles in the workplace and at home, but it may take more than legal rights to change cultural norms.

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About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.