Approaches to childcare have changed considerably over the last forty years. Looking after children is no longer considered a "woman's job" and fathers play an increasingly significant role in caring for their children.
More than half of fathers surveyed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission have taken paternity leave. And the Maternity and Paternity Rights Survey 2005 shows that almost all fathers (93%) take time off when their wives give birth.
There is also evidence to show that early involvement of fathers in the upbringing of their children leads to a number of positive outcomes. These include continuing involvement throughout the child's life, reduced likelihood of the child's involvement in criminal activity and increased educational attainment.
Since 1997, the Government has taken a number of steps to enable fathers to play a bigger role in bringing up their children by introducing parental leave, two weeks' paid paternity leave and the right to request flexible working.
And last September, it announced plans to grant parents additional choice and flexibility as to how they use maternity and paternity leave.
Currently, employed fathers are entitled to two weeks paid paternity leave and mothers to 52 weeks maternity leave, of which up to 39 weeks are paid. Under new plans, mothers would be able to transfer the final six months / 26 weeks of their maternity leave to the father once the mother has returned to work.
In order to give employers time to adjust to the new scheme, the Government said it would be introduced for children due on or after 3 April 2011. It also launched a consultation on the scheme, which closed on 20 November 2009, and this week published its response to the consultation.
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