Liberal Democrats pledge longer paternity leave in general election manifesto

Lib Dems propose that fathers be given an extra four weeks of paternity leave to 'establish the important role for dads' in a child’s life

New fathers would see their paternity leave extended from two to six weeks under new Liberal Democrat plans to be included in the party’s general election manifesto.

Total parental leave would be extended to 58 weeks, with both mothers and fathers entitled to six weeks individually, with additional time shared between them.

The proposal, first suggested in a policy paper last summer, goes further than the Coalition’s policy of shared parental leave which is set to benefit 285,000 working couples upon its implementation in April 2015.

The allowance is designed to “establish the important role of dads early on,” according to Lib Dem Business and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson.

She said: “Extending paternity leave is an important step to encouraging new dads to spend more time with their child in those vital early weeks and months after birth.”

The move would serve the building of a stronger economy and a fairer society, she explained.

“It allows couples to choose how to split time off work to look after their new baby. When parents share caring responsibilities, more equality in the workplace will follow."

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

According to the Lib Dems, the plans have been designed so as to ensure fathers claim parental leave, with the party concerned that fathers would not take the opportunity of leave if it were just available instead of reserved.

A Lib Dem spokeswoman said she could not comment at this stage whether policy would be a red line issue in the event of the party forming another coalition, but added: "It's very important to us.

"We have done lots in government so far to make sure fathers get more rights. This is just the extra step in encouraging them to spend more time with their children."

In same-sex couples, each partner would be entitled to six weeks' reserved leave, with the rest available to share.

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