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UEA family expert calls for government rethink

Tue, 13 Nov 2012

An expert from the University of East Anglia has called for the Government to rethink proposed changes to the system of leave entitlement for new parents.

Prof Margaret O’Brien, co-director of Centre for Research on the Child and Family at UEA is one of eight family experts backing a statement released today from the Fatherhood Institute.

They say the government’s plans “send a confusing message to families” and that the reforms are a lost opportunity for modernisation.

The proposals would allow fathers to take up some of a mothers’ maternity leave from two weeks after childbirth - rather than 20 weeks at present. The aim is to encourage both parents to take a full role from the start.

But Prof O’Brien believes this would have no impact on the ability of parents to share responsibilities for young children and that they amount to “a de facto statement that a mother’s child-rearing role is more important than that of the father”.

In a joint statement issued today, she says: “The government’s new proposals make a father's entitlement to leave dependent on the mother's work status - a bizarre arrangement that will not work, and a fundamental statement that the responsibilities of mothers and fathers are unequal. We welcome fathers’ new right to time off (unpaid) for antenatal appointments. But the current proposals give the appearance of progress when fundamentally there will be none.

“A well-designed system, based on genuinely shared responsibility for the upbringing of children, would be good for the economy, good for child welfare and good for family stability and is well worth fighting for. We urge Government to think again.”
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