That’s it then. The season of fireside quizzes, to-do lists, and sofa sales is behind us. (Yes, sofas. What is that all about? Do people say, “Oh my goodness, the birth of Jesus Christ – we need a new sofa” and then rush off to the sales for an unrepeatable offer?
I await with interest the marketing folk waking up to the possibilities of Epiphany, which falls tomorrow: Wise up – 50% off all china plates rimmed with 22 carat gold. Big deals on Frankincense. Make it Myrrh Monday. Hurry while stocks last!
Or maybe travel supplements will go big on organised camel safaris in the desert? Perhaps they already do.
Manifestations of superhuman beings aside, there will be scope for prolonged head-scratching in 2015. Changes to paternity leave come into effect. Herein lie tidings of great joy, unless you happen to be an employer with no great love of administrative costs.
Here’s what Acas says (Acas is the publicly funded Avisory, Conciliation and Arbitation Service that promotes good working relations): In April the age limit for ordinary Parental Leave increases, applying to young people under 18 years.
This is not to be confused with Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave or Shared Parental Leave (SPL), which is a new entitlement. SPL came into force in December for eligible parents of children to be born or adopted on or after April 5 this year.
So big changes in the spring when it comes to looking after little Rory and Robina. Lots of options. Lots of diplomatic who-does-what discussions coming up, I rather think. Mum, dad, the employers, grandparents, health visitors, named guardians (without whom no child can be launched into this savage world, or so we are led to believe) – some or all will have to be squared, organised, placated and won over. Should be fun.
Or perhaps that hard worked and ambiguous word “challenging” would be more accurate.
Forgive me, but the magnetic lure of experience is too strong to resist. In my mind’s eye I see the First Mate and me pottering into Ninewells Hospital when our firstborn was on the way, the growing feeling of being mildly de trop as the team of professionals took over, a feeble masculine pretence at calm, witnessing the miracle and vowing, absurdly, that once was quite enough.
At some point in the overture to the main event I spluttered into a payphone, explaining to my office chief that, ideally, I might be excused non-parental duties for a few hours. There was a leaden silence at the other end. Then to my ear came a heavy sigh that spoke eloquently of inevitable concessions to a world grown soft, where fathers attended antenatal classes and wept openly for joy, and intimate photographs were condoned, even encouraged.
“Yes, I suppose” was the weary response, “You will be more useful there than here”. That was it. Nothing more was said or expected. Help, which we certainly needed, neither of us knowing one end of an infant from another, was a family affair supported by wise GP and a doughty district nurse.
That’s how it was in 1978. A good year for roses, I seem to recall, if not for paternal rights as such.
These days a parent-employee with one year’s service can give 21 days’ notice and apply for 18 weeks unpaid leave, taken any time up to the child’s fifth birthday. On top of that comes the new entitlement this year for partners to share time off work. There is statutory maternity and paternity pay.
According to Acas, a new mum might in future agree to share some time off work with her partner, return to work for a spell and then collect more leave at a later date.
I guess this is all about helping women with their home/work life balance, having progressive attitudes to workplace reform and boosting smart ways of working in the 21st century. It’s the way managers and the managed embrace innovation, etc., etc.
It is also claimed that there are (unspecified) emotional and educational advantages for children in the new system. Great, but I wonder if the real driver here is simpler: ending the “myth” that the mother’s role is to stay at home and change nappies. And In other words, an uncompromising feminist agenda.
Down the road, other government departments decry the country’s limp record on productivity and competitiveness. Do they talk to each other, do you think? Or is this sort of confusion the price of coalition?