Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, today launched a national advertising campaign to encourage fathers with young children to make the most of new laws to help parents balance childcare with work, which come in on April 6 2003.
British men now work some of the longest hours in Europe and are less aware of flexible working policies than women, despite the fact that two-thirds would like the chance to work flexibly when necessary. A fifth of British men have visited the doctor because of stress and stress-related absence costs British industry around £7.1 million every week.
Under the new laws, working parents with children under 6, or disabled children under 18, will have the legal right to get their employer to consider requests for flexible working to help them balance their careers with childcare. This new right will apply to both fathers and mothers.
New fathers will also have the right to two weeks paid paternity leave, for the first time ever. Maternity pay and leave has also been increased so that new mothers will get six months paid leave at £100 a week, and can take an additional six months unpaid if they want it. 60% of UK companies - most of them small firms - will be fully reimbursed by the Government for the maternity pay they pay out. There will be similar new rights for parents who adopt children.
Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, said:
"It is vital that we raise public awareness about the new employment rights if they are to be successful - especially the new paternity rights and flexible ways of working. "We know from successful businesses that promoting flexible working improves recruitment and retention, reduces absenteeism and increases staff motivation and performance and the best companies are already doing it.
"It could take up to 20 years for best practice to change the deep-rooted long hours work culture that still exists in many organisations and parents should not have to wait that long. That's why we have introduced the new legislation to speed things up.
"But we will only succeed in changing the macho culture if fathers are taken seriously and take up flexible working and paternity leave. I urge men at the top of business, who are in the majority, to take the lead in helping create a new work culture."
The adverts are scheduled to run from 25 February to 5 April, across national, trade, consumer and ethnic press as well as online media. The awareness campaign is set to continue later in the year.