Weekend: New Laws Will Let Men Be Full-Time Dads; the Traditional Idea of Fatherhood, Where Men Have to Give Work Rather Than Family Priority during the Working Week, Could Become Obsolete Thanks to New Legislation and Changes in Employers' Attitudes. Laura May Reports
Byline: Laura May
the complex juggling act that working parents are forced to perfect, most admit that childcare is the ball which most often gets dropped.
Almost half of the working population are parents and the majority of those cannot rely on one partner to stay at home to look after the kids. Around 65 per cent of women with children now work and one third of parental childcare is now done by dads.
From Sunday, April 6 that could all change for new parents. New legislation is coming into force that encourages familyfriendly flexible working and entitles parents to more time off.
Under the new laws employers have to listen to requests for flexible working arrangements. And mothers can take an extra six months of unpaid maternity leave while new dads are allowed to take two paid weeks off following the birth of the baby.
In addition, mothers and fathers can take up to 13 weeks unpaid parental leave and can also go home to deal with family emergencies, until the child is six years old.
The granting of paternity leave is being marked by the launch of Dad, Britain's first men's magazine for dads. Developed by Father's Direct, the national information centre on fatherhood, the magazine aims to keep new dads fully informed about the issues facing them.
Father-of-five Pierce Brosnan graces the front cover and inside David Beckham and Big Brother's Darren Ramsay talk about what fatherhood means to them.
Celebrity mums know all about the difficulty of balancing work and family commitments too. Kate Winslet has pledged to make only one film a year so she can spend more time with baby Mia.
All of these changes are good in theory. But in practice many parents will shy away from claiming the time to which they are entitled and putting family first when under pressure at work.
For many the reproachful glances when they slip out early to do the school run or the fear of damaging promotional prospects will be enough to deter them.
The problem lies in our attitude towards parenting says Mary MacLeod, Chief Executive of the National Family and Parenting Institute.
'These are important issues in making this a more family-friendly country, but there is more at stake here.
'Almost half of our working population is made up of parents, people who typically say that their working lives and responsibilities as parents raising the future generation simply do not balance.
'Our birth rate falls to a new low each year and we are creating a social timebomb for ourselves if we do not make it more attractive to raise a family in this country. …