New Paternity Leave Rights 'Don't Go Nearly Far Enough' the Days of Nervous Dads-to-Be Pacing Up and Down outside Maternity Rooms While Their Wives Pushed through the Pain Barrier Are Long Gone. and in a Nod to the Ever-Growing Role Played by Fathers in the Lives of Their Children New Dads Are Now Able to Take Up to Six Months in Parental Leave. Darren Devine Reports

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Byline: Darren Devine

THE dawn of the stay-at-home dad has ushered in a revolution in family life.

From being virtually unheard of in the immediate post-war era, the numbers of house husbands grew across the UK by 56% from 125,000 in 1994 to 195,000 in 2009.

And as of last Sunday the Government has brought the law into line with the massive shift in gender roles by giving men the right to take up to six months off work after the birth of a child. At their simplest the changes mean that, should a woman decide to return to work early during her 12 months' maternity leave, she can transfer up to six months of her time off to her partner or husband.

The husband or partner - the changes also apply to adoptive parents - can take the leave between 20 weeks and one year after the child is born or placed for adoption.

The leave operates on a sort of sliding scale basis. So should the woman return to work after seven months the man gets five months leave, and so on.

But will the changes work? For the first three months men will be paid only at the lower rate of a woman's maternity leave - pounds 124.88. As with women they won't be paid at all for the last three months.

At the moment women are paid at 90% for the first six weeks of their year-long maternity leave. Already some stay-at-home dads suggest take-up will be low because men are being offered only the low-paid element of a woman's leave.

If a woman falls through the maternity system - if she has only recently started with an employer or was not working before the birth of a second child - then her husband or partner will be entitled to nothing.

Duncan Fisher, who works flexibly, and his wife take a 50/50 share of child care responsibilities for their daughters aged 14 and 10. He says the measures represent progress but do not go nearly far enough.

Mr Fisher, 48, from Crickhowell, in Powys, who until two years ago ran the Fatherhood Institute charity, said the benefits of shared parenting extended well beyond families to society.

He said: "Little children need to see more of their fathers and fathers need to see more of their little children.

"It's those early bonds that really create relationships.

In families that do that, where the mum is not left alone with the kids all day for a year with the guy working all the time, there is much less divorce and the children do better.

"This is not just about lifestyles - it's about what children need and what families need and the more mothers and fathers share things in that first year the happier it makes them. …