Theresa May could offer fathers 12 weeks’ paid paternity leave as one of her ’legacy’ policies before she leaves office as Prime Minister.
The plans, reported in several Sunday newspapers, are yet to be confirmed, but would be a dramatic increase on the current two weeks’ statutory allowance of £148 per week or 90% of usual pay, whichever is lower.
Extending parental leave for fathers was proposed in a report by the Women and Equalities Committee last year, which suggested the 12 weeks could be a “use it or lose it” allowance that would encourage more men to take longer periods of leave.
Shared parental leave, the coalition government’s flagship childcare policy, has so far seen very little take-up, with only 9,200 new parents taking it last year – just 1% of those who were eligible to do so.
However, Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake expressed concern about the impact of offering a longer period of leave on small businesses.
He told The Sun on Sunday: “Firms are under huge pressure whether it’s paying the national living wage or coping to keep up with crippling business rates.
“Small to medium-sized firms need time to adjust and the measures will need to be properly consulted on.”
Several employers already provide well above the statutory requirement to new fathers. Drinks giant Diageo, for example, offers the same six months fully paid to both men and women, and phone network 02 recently increased its paternity leave offer to 14 weeks.
Theresa May is keen to leave her stamp before she leaves number 10, announcing a number of final policies in her last weeks of office.
Earlier this month she announced she would invest in training for every new teacher in England to enable them to spot the early warning signs of mental illness.