Lib Dems to extend paternity leave rights

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The Liberal Democrats have pledged to give fathers an extra four weeks’ paternity leave.

Fathers are currently allowed two weeks but the party wants to go further in its general election manifesto and increase the protected entitlement to six weeks, extending total parental leave to 58 weeks.

The policy goes further than the Coalition’s planned introduction of shared parental leave from April 2015.

Business and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said shared paternal leave played an essential part in building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

She added: “It allows couples to choose how to split time off work to look after their new baby.

“Extending paternity leave is an important next step to encouraging new dads to spend more time with their child in those vital early weeks and months after birth. When parents share caring responsibilities, more equality in the workplace will follow.

“It is a nonsense to think it is only the mother’s job to look after children. Parenting is a shared responsibility.

“Most dads want to spend more time with their new baby, but can sometimes be discouraged by outdated ideas and cultural barriers in the workplace.

“The ‘use it or lose’ it six weeks will establish the important role of dads early on, and encourage couples to use the full flexibility on offer.”

Under the plans, legislation would be amended to provide parental rights to cover six weeks reserved for working fathers, six weeks for working mothers and the remaining time available to share between partners. In a same-sex couple, each partner would be entitled to six weeks’ reserved leave, with the rest available to share.