If the Labour Party comes into power following the General Election on 7 May, leader Ed Miliband has confirmed that they will increase not only the amount of time off for new fathers, but the rate of statutory paternity pay too. Currently, male employees are entitled to two weeks off when they become a parent at a rate of approximately £160 per week, a figure not even in line with National Minimum Wage. Under these possible changes, weekly paternity pay would be increased to £260 per week and time off doubled to four weeks. This equates to an extra spend of £720 per new father.
These proposals have been heavily criticised by John Longworth of the British Chambers of Commerce who said “businesses have already had to absorb over half a dozen changes to parental leave in the last decade”. Some commentators believe that the changes would effectively impose a “tax” on businesses whilst others say it is time fathers felt they could take time off to support their families in the knowing they are not being financially punished. The Liberal Democrats have very similar plans for paternity leave but on a “use it or lose it” basis and the Conservatives, though not as specific with their aims, support greater flexibility in this area. Regardless of the outcome of the election, businesses will face a lot of change.