Canada could soon offer dads five weeks of paternity leave - is it time the UK did the same?

Canada is introducing 5 weeks of paternity leave for new dads [Photo: Getty]
Canada is introducing 5 weeks of paternity leave for new dads [Photo: Getty]

Canada could soon be introducing five weeks of paid paternity leave for new dads.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already raised the idea of creating the use-it-or-lose-it leave and the plan is expected to be officially announced in the Canadian budget on Tuesday.

The move forms part of a wider attempt to tackle gender inequality in the workplace and encourage new mums back into work.

The idea is that the extended paternity leave could offer new parents a greater incentive to share child-raising responsibilities so that mothers can more easily return to the workforce.

But the new legislation isn’t expected to come into effect until June 2019.

The idea would be similar to the paternity leave policy in Quebec, which provides up to five weeks of paid leave to new fathers covering up to 70 per cent of their income.

Could better paternity rights lead to more gender equality in the workplace? [Photo: Getty]
Could better paternity rights lead to more gender equality in the workplace? [Photo: Getty]

Trudeau has previously spoken about his belief that making it easier for non-birthing parents, like fathers, to take time off to care for a new baby could help to tackle some of the barriers women face in the workforce by overcoming the belief that they are primarily responsible for childcare.

Trudeau said he plans to look at altering parental leave, specifically “leave that can only be taken by the second parent, in most cases the father,” making it “a use-it-or-lose-it” model.

He also alluded to the fact that the leave would extend beyond simply fathers to include a partner in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender marriages.

“Whatever format you have, that path is removing some of the barriers and the obligations and the expectations that hold women back in the workforce, so there are a lot of things to do and we’re going to have,” he said according to The Record.

So with Canada looking to introduce more flexible paternity leave for fathers, is it time that the UK followed suit?

Currently in this country fathers are entitled to just one or two weeks’ paid Paternity Leave.

According to parenting site around 90% of UK fathers take formal leave of some kind near the time of their child’s birth, although in many cases this includes some annual leave.

And studies suggest that the taking of paternity leave can have all sorts of benefits. A recent analysis of data on more than 4,000 women from an English national maternity survey found that mums whose partners had taken no paternity leave were more likely to report feeling ill or unwell at three months, and mothers with more than one child whose partners took no leave also reported much higher rates of post-natal depression.

A further UK study found that fathers who took paternity leave were 25% more likely to change nappies and almost a fifth (19%) more likely to feed their 8-12 month old babies and to get up to them at night.

Should British dads get better paternity rights? [Photo: Getty]
Should British dads get better paternity rights? [Photo: Getty]

So there is definitely a case for extending the current paternity leave, but some changes have been made to maternity and paternity leave in the UK of late.

Back in 2015 the government introduced the option of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), allowing new parents to split the leave they take from work to look after their baby.

Like Trudeau,’s reasoning, it was claimed the change would help “level the playing field” for women in the workplace.

Gaenor Bagley, head of people at PWC, says allowing couples to share post-baby leave entitlements could take the pressure off many women when it comes to taking time out from their careers to have a baby.

But fast forward two years and a new report has revealed that fewer than 1% of eligible mums and dads have taken advantage of the shared parental leave system in the past year. Pretty disappointing stuff.

So why has it not worked out?

A report into the utilisation of the scheme suggests the cultural stigma of men taking a lengthy break from work to care for their children could be a key reason for the low take-up.

Sadly, despite it being 2018, the stigma surrounding dads staying at home with their children doesn’t seem to be abating.

But maybe if Canada’s new scheme is a success it can start to break down barriers so that the UK can follow suit.

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