Dad Will gets time off for birth

Bri­tain’s royals are part of chang­ing at­ti­tudes

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

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.

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