Provision of parental leave needs a rethink

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Shocking research showing that women do 45 hours of unpaid care a week, far more than their male counterparts (Report, 31 March), demonstrates yet again the need for a radical rethink of the current “use it or lose it” model of parental leave.

In addition to more affordable childcare and a right to flexible working, we need to look at a fixed allowance of parental leave for each parent that can be used at any time in a child’s first 12 years of life. This would better reflect the ongoing needs of families as children grow up, ameliorating some of the childcare responsibilities that have led to women being disadvantaged in the workplace.

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Men are unlikely to take up parental leave in the first year of a child’s life. Even where a father’s time off is paid, many still fear the impact that taking time off will have on their career. A longer-term, more flexible approach to parental leave would allow parents to take shorter periods off to take care of their children, leading to a more equal sharing of responsibilities and causing less disruption to businesses than large portions of time off.
Dana Denis-Smith

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