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Blunkett dismisses paid paternity leave, but Byers refuses to rule it out


David Blunkett's opinion is that paternity leave should not be paid for by the state, contrary to recent press reports.

Speaking at a seminar held by the Institute of Public Policy Research yesterday, Blunkett questioned whether it was the job of the state to provide paid leave, saying that "no-one I know would argue against maternity leave or sensible paternity leave to engage fathers as crucial carers and responsible parents. But is it the job of the State to provide paid leave for family duties, other than for family emergencies? There will be different views, but it is critically important that we debate now the parameters of the State as opposed to the family or employers".

Although he did not specifically rule out the idea at the seminar itself, the Times reports that a Whitehall spokesperson later said that Blunkett did not favour the concept of state-funded paternity leave.

There still seems to be some confusion over the government's view on the subject though.

At a recent conference Stephen Byers, Trade and Industry Secretary refused to rule out the possibility, saying that "any changes to benefits would have to be paid for, within public expenditure restrictions.......but before we rule out anything we need to explore all the options".

Announcing a review of maternity and paternity leave, Byers added that "some have made a case for paid paternity leave for different periods of time and using different payment methods. We will assess the likely merits and impact of these".

"In considering these options, a key principle will be to avoid putting any undue burdens on business - especially small firms. Parental leave, paid for by the State, for instance, would raise issues for firms - issues like finding cover and dealing with the administration. We will need to deal with such concerns".


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