My partner has just called me from work in tears. He can not attend the midwife appointment with me this Friday. Not even if he takes it as unpaid leave, annual leave or makes the time back. His employers say they have no legal obligation to allow him any time off for ante-natal appointments and they “might need him”. Well, I need him more than they do.
More than this, he NEEDS to be there. He is the father.
On Friday I will have to discuss, and make a decision on, the tests I may need as an older mother. I will also have to give both parents medical history. All on my own. I don’t know where to start.
Today he is close to walking out of work, hanging up his work boots and saying shove your job. But of course he can’t, the weight of looming responsibility and the costs of bringing up a baby force him to stay and shut up. He will shut up, but his feelings towards work and his employers have already changed. He no longer feels part of a team, he does not feel supported nor valued. He is refusing to work overtime to help them out as they have not helped him. He is working to rule, as are his employers.
If only the rules were different. If he were allowed time off to attend appointments he would happily make the time back. He would feel that his employers were supportive of him as a person. He would work harder. He would be more likely to stay with them and be a good ambassador. I would feel supported, less scared, less weight, more of a team. He would feel part of the pregnancy, part of his babys life before it arrived. more likely to feel more confident when the baby did arrive, more clued up about the birth, more included by health services, a better relationship with midwives. A better relationship with me. Remember, plenty of men on their death-beds regret not being a more hands-on dad…few if any wish they’d spent more time working.
Its time for real action on this now. No more ‘best practice’ no more ‘options for employers’, no more ‘goodwill’. Things need to change for families who work. I am calling on this Government to make it a legal entitlement for fathers to attend ante-natal appointments, whether through paid time off, making up the hours or even unpaid leave.
Employers should be convinced of the case for this, which is well evidenced and widely agreed. Fathers should be confident that asking for time off will not seriously damage career prospects and or be seen to indicate a lack of commitment.
The governments planned changes to maternity/paternity leave are commendable (if carried through by the next government) but how far will they go to ensure that both mothers and fathers are supported at the earliest stages of parenthood?
It’s time to lay to rest the notion that pregnancy is only a women’s issue, and focus on individualizing workplaces to support business objectives and personal goals of both mothers and fathers.