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150210paternity

Here’s a story that might have been buried in the hubbub over HSBC. It could be a huge vote-winner for Labour, so let’s give it another chance. The BBC reported:

A future Labour government would double the amount of paid paternity leave available to new fathers from two to four weeks, Ed Miliband has announced.

The Labour leader has also pledged to increase statutory paternity pay by more than £120 a week to £260 a week, paid for by savings in tax credits.

Since 2003, new fathers have been entitled to two weeks’ paid leave if they meet certain criteria, such as having worked for their employer for a defined length of time.

But Labour says only about 55% of new fathers take the full two weeks off because of financial pressures forcing them to return to work.

Ed Miliband said current entitlements are “outdated” and giving fathers an “independent right” to a month off to care for their children would help 400,000 families give their children the “best start in life they can”.

The Labour leader has pledged to substantially increase rates of statutory pay, currently set at £138.18 per week or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is less.

Under Labour, the amount fathers would receive would rise to at least £260 a week, the equivalent of a forty-hour week on the minimum wage.

“At the same time as women are under pressure in their careers, more fathers want to play a hands-on role in childcare, particularly in those first crucial weeks of a child’s life,” Mr Miliband will say in a speech on Monday.

“Thanks to the last Labour government, fathers have two weeks’ paid paternity leave. Millions of families have benefited with parents saying this has helped them support each other, share caring responsibilities and bond with their children.

“But the money isn’t great and too many Dads don’t take up their rights because they feel they have to go back so they can provide for their family.”

Some business leaders have said the £150m move amounts to a business “tax”.

A new system of shared parental leave championed by the Liberal Democrats comes into force in April.

The Lib Dems are also proposing, in future, a month’s worth of paternity leave after a child’s birth on a “use it or lose it” basis.

The Conservatives have supported greater flexibility in parental leave, arguing that all future spending policies need to pass a “families test”.

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