Unicef - UK one of the least family-friendly countries

Unicef Ranks UK as one of the Least Family-friendly Countries

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) declared the UK as one of the least family-friendly countries in the developed world (OECD nations). Their key findings were released last week. Support for maternity leave is poor and for paternity at just £148.68 a week for two weeks is shameful. Their announcement states 'Paid paternity leave helps fathers bond with their babies, contributes to healthy infant and child development, lowers maternal depression and increases gender equality' and their report calls for 'national policies ensuring paid paternity leave and encouraging fathers to use it.'. 

The UK Government introduced a scheme for  Shared Parental Leave, however, this policy has been widely accepted as being a failure with estimates of 1% to 8% take-up (most estimates being around 2%). The issue for most families is lack of afordability. Crucially, unlike our scheme, countries where such policies do work provide paternity leave on a non-tranferable and funded  basis. They not only enjoy high take-up rates but more joint care of children whether the parents live together or apart. Last year our Government rejected a proposal by the Women and Equalities Select Committee, with an eye on narrowing the gender pay-gap, to give fathers a month of funded paternity leave, with a number of inadequate excuses. It is not surprising that the countries with the most family-friendly policies were Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Estonia along with, perhaps more surprisingly, Portugal. Neither is it particularly surprising that those with most generous paternity policies have the lowest gender pay-gaps. Various media cover this story and The Independent reports that the UK ranks 28th out of 31 countries, only marginally better than cash-strapped Greece. We have requested a copy of the full report from Unicef.