Current news.

‘Additional Parental Leave’ still leaving fathers behind

Additional parental leave (APL) is a government policy which allows parents to plan and share their care responsibilities rather than just accept the maternity and paternity leave which has been traditionally prescribed to them.

APL was introduced in 2009 following government recognition that two weeks paternity leave was perhaps not enough time for a father to bond with their child. This policy was created to facilitate the new generation of parents who didn’t want to accept stereotyping and outdated social norms – the stay at home mum with the father as the breadwinner. APL presented the opportunity for conventional views to be reformed: allowing women to be career driven and for men to be domestically involved.

Recently, Alexis Ohanian – Reddit co-founder and Serena Williams's husband – publicly spoke out about the importance of paternity leave, for both the individual and the child. Ohanian’s experience is not one of isolation as there has been continuous documentation of the increase demand for men wanting to be increasingly involved within their child’s life. This is perhaps a key reason why the government introduced policy’s such as Additional Parental Leave – to give fathers the opportunity to be more involved and present. Therefore, one would assume that APL has been a huge success since its launch and childcare responsibilities are now split on a 50/50 basis between a mother and father. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is estimated that the uptake of APL by eligible fathers is as low as 2%. Shocking, yet unsurprising when you dive a little deeper into the social and economic circumstances surrounding this policy.

As previously mentioned, APL was introduced by the government to increase father involvement in the early stages of their child’s life. However, research shows that 1 in 4 new fathers don’t take any paternity leave at all due to a combination of factors ranging from financial strains to organisational pressure to return to work. This explains why the uptake of additional parental leave is so low as the government have attempted to offer a solution without fully tackling the problem men face: pressure. Studies have found that men feel a social pressure to be the ‘breadwinner’ and the ‘provider’. Therefore, providing a policy which allows men to increase their involvement at home without tackling the social and economic pressure they face is like getting him to do a 500-metre sprint against a bungee run – very difficult.

Therefore, it is clear that additional parental leave in essence is a good idea. However, more work must be taken to tackle the pressures men experience at work and in society. It is approaches like these that will ensure that fathers have a fair opportunity and are not left behind.

by Kimberly Curley