Although mostly an election year tactic, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent announcement to increase family leave demonstrates that nation is continuing to grapple with modern-day parenting issues.
Not surprisingly, Blair’s proposal to increase paid maternity leave from six months to nine months greatly upset British business leaders, reports the News Telegraph. But what really freaks them out is the idea that moms might be able to transfer some of the paid leave to dads.
It’s kind of sad that dads are considered a lower-class citizen when it comes to parenting, but it still puts fathers there in a better position than the two barely-paid weeks they get now. Then again, conditions are only marginally better in some U.S. states and worse in others.
California workers, for example, can get up to six weeks of partial pay a year to take care of a new child or sick family member, reports California Paid Family Leave. Because businesses must pay 55 percent of the parent’s usual pay, conservative leaders such as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would love to scrap the law. Ironically, few Californians take advantage of the law, which went into effect in July 2004, simply because they don’t know about it. Or like me, they can’t afford even a 45 percent pay cut for a few weeks.
States that fail to enact family leave acts, however, are at the mercy of the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, according to the AFLCIO website. And a few weeks ago, rumors began to float that the Bush Administration was considering scrapping this meager law, which you can read about at Half Changed World.
But a different dynamic seems to be in play in England, where family and divorce rights issues are at the top of the agenda and politicians know it. Here’s an excerpt from a Blair-signed letter on the Labor website:
Bringing up a family is a great joy but it can also be tough. People lead busy lives and finding the right balance between work and family is not always easy.
Governments cannot raise children. But they can and should offer help to parents when it is most needed and to offer it in a way that gives parents the maximum amount of choice over how they use that help.
That’s why we have announced new measure to help hard working families.
It’s too bad that simple idea has been forgotten by the national leaders in the United States. As Britain continues to move forward with reforms, maybe it will spur a fresh movement in the United States to make parenting more friendly here.