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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 16:26 GMT
Fierce debate likely over paternity plans
Dylan Anderson
Baby Dylan was cared for by both parents in his first week
By social affairs correspondent Alison Holt

For most men fatherhood is a revelation and David Anderson is no exception.

Two weeks ago his son Dylan was born and for the first week of his life his dad was there as much as his mum.

Under proposals put forward by the government, all fathers could soon be entitled to take time off from work when their child is born.

The green paper Working Parents: Competitiveness and Choice would mean two weeks of paid paternity leave, giving fathers 60 a week for their time off.


It is absolutely essential to make that immediate bond for the family

David Anderson, father
David Anderson is a teacher and his school already allows male staff to take one week off on full pay.

He said the time he spent with Dylan and his wife, Sophie, was vital: " I think it is absolutely essential to make that immediate bond for the family so we can learn together as a family.

"In this case it was our first child so there was a lot of learning for us to do. I've been there right from the beginning."

Flexibility

Dylan's mother, Sophie Grig-Anderson, agrees. She also believes the plans to extend maternity pay and leave and to encourage flexible working are important.

"If companies do allow a more flexible approach then the whole of society will benefit in the long run", she says.

" I think the strength of families is integral to the success of society. "

But some business leaders are less convinced of the arguments for increasing parental rights.

They claim that small firms will find it particularly difficult to cope if parents are given extra time away from work.

Cost difficulties

Sarah Anderson runs an employment agency called the Mayday Group. She has 40 staff and they find temporary work for about 300 people, mainly in the catering industry.

She maintains that covering for someone away on maternity or paternity leave is difficult when firms cannot afford to replace them.

Many companies already try to help parents balance work and home, and Ms Anderson worries setting such arrangements in legal stone will only cause problems.

She's concerned other staff may be resentful: "Flexibility is not just about parental care," she says.

"For a lot of workers it is about elderly care, for some it is about time off for study and I have a real fear that if we home in on parental leave and reviews to maternity pay then there could be a backlash against women or people of child bearing age. "

'Family comes first'

Other bosses believe being family-friendly is good for everyone.

Caroline Marshall Foster is Chief Executive of the Word House, a firm which publishes a trade magazine for florists.

She has 13 staff, all care for either young families or elderly relatives and seven work part time.

"Family comes first", she insists," but the bottom line is also crucial as we all have to pay mortgages."

She believes because the company is understanding about the demands of raising a family, staff give even more back to the firm through hard work.

The government's green paper on parents at work is bound to cause fierce debate, but with an election expected in the spring it will be a long time before any of the ideas become laws.

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See also:

07 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Paid paternity leave on the cards
10 Sep 00 | Health
'Expectant fathers ignored'
07 Dec 00 | Business
Family Friendly
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