Dad Will gets time off for birth
Britain’s royals are part of changing attitudes
LONDON: He may be royal, but when it comes to paternity leave Prince William is in the same boat as everyone else. Like thousands of other new fathers in Britain, he will get two weeks off when his child is born.
Along with British society, the royal family has been gradually modernising its attitudes to birth and parenting. William’s father, Prince Charles, was present at the birth of his two sons, who were born in a hospital rather than a palace – both breaks from royal tradition. But William is the first senior royal to receive statutory paternity leave, which was introduced in Britain in 2003.
Some family campaigners say William, a Royal Air Force search- and- rescue helicopter pilot, is setting a good example in a country where until recently new fathers have taken little time off.
But others say two weeks is not enough, and argue that social and economic pressures still discourage fathers from spending time looking after their newborns.
“There is an element that employers – and men themselves – are thinking of them as the ones who earn the money, and stick in that role when children come along,” said Jeremy Davies of the Fatherhood Institute think tank. “It can be quite difficult to set yourself apart from that.”
Under British law, William is entitled to two weeks off at a flat pay rate of just under £137 (R2 065) a week. He’s lucky – the military is among employers that pay more, and he will receive his full salary for the fortnight.
The British government says two-thirds of new fathers take some paternity leave, but less than half take the full two weeks. Some are ineligible because they are self-employed, or haven’t been at a job for at least six months. Others just can’t afford it.
Mothers, who receive the bulk of parental leave, can take up to a year off, though only 39 weeks of it is paid, and not at full salary.
The rules are changing. Under recent shifts, new fathers can take up to six months leave by using up some of the year of a partner who has returned to work.
But few do. Elizabeth Gardiner of campaign group Working Families said that in the first year the flexible leave was offered, only 1 650 men in Britain took it.
She said the solution was to set aside some time off for fathers only – a practice known in Scandinavia as “daddy months”.
“If you really want fathers to take up leave you have to earmark it for them, and you have to pay it properly,” she said.
That’s what they do in Sweden, where new parents can take 16 months’ paid leave, divided between the parents as they like. Two months can only be taken by the mother and two months by the father – if not, the time cannot be transferred to the other and is forfeited.
As an incentive, it works. In 2000, Swedish men took only 12.4 percent of parental leave; by 2010 their share had nearly doubled to 23.1 percent, according to government statistics.
At the other end of the scale is the US, where there is no government- subsidised nationwide paid paternity leave, though some companies and a few states, including California, offer it. Many companies and the public sector offer unpaid leave to new fathers. – Sapa-AP
ANTICIPATION: A royal supporter and an onlooker laugh as they stand opposite the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital, London, where the duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth. Prince William and his wife Kate say they have no idea of the gender of the royal baby.
BIRTH SITE: Tourists photograph the media pen opposite the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital, where the new heir to Britain’s throne is to be born.
EXPECTING: Kate, the duchess of Cambridge.