EOC says maternity leave transfer will reinforce stereotypes

Government plans to allow women to transfer some of their maternity leave to fathers should be scrapped because they reinforce the assumption that it is “the mother’s natural role” to care for a young child, according to the UK’s sex equality watchdog.

In evidence to ministers consulting on rights for working parents, the Equal Opportunities Commission argues that the plan undervalues the role of fathers in the care of young children, reports the Guardian.

Instead of giving mothers the option of handing over some of their 12 months’ leave entitlement, only half of which is paid, the government should replace the second six months with paid “shared parental leave”, to be divided as couples choose, the commission says.

It also wants the current two weeks’ paternity leave, paid at £106 a week, to be extended to four weeks – a “daddy month” – paid at 90% of earnings up to a fixed amount, because at present too few fathers can afford to take it.

In its submission to the Department of Trade and Industry’s consultation, Working Families – Choice and Flexibility, which ends on Thursday, the watchdog says: “The EOC believes that after the physiological need for the mother to have time with her child, for reasons such as breastfeeding, after the first six months society should not assume it is the mother’s natural role to be the carer.”

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