The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced this week that couples are to get new maternity/paternity leave rights giving them greater choice and flexibility in the first year of a baby’s life. Essentially they will be able to transfer up to six months of the mother’s maternity leave to the father, which can be taken by the father once the mother has returned to work.
As every parent knows having a baby can be a stressful as well as a joyous experience, especially if juggling work and home commitments at the same time. As every divorce lawyer knows, those early months can also be so stressful that the domestic disharmony that can ensue can also lead to separation and relationship breakdown as everyone seeks to adapt to their changing roles.
So will a benefit intended to alleviate stress and difficulties, also in its own way and in some cases, make a relationship crisis even worse? Come 2011, I can well imagine the cases where one party or the other bemoans the fact that the other shirked their responsibilities by failing to take the second six months’ leave offered. Alternatively what about those mothers who might complain that they had to return to work so that their husbands could have six months at home with little Jack or Joanna, only to come home from work every day and find the house in disarray; dirty nappies everywhere and no dinner on the table or smiling hubby to greet them.