David Blackburn

Let’s hope the paternity revolution stalls

Let’s hope the paternity revolution stalls
Text settings

Nick Clegg’s announcement on the extension of paternity leave has been drowned by the cacophony surrounding NHS reform. The government is keen to describe itself as family friendly – with the exception of Vulgaria in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, all government's do. Clegg hopes to bring flexibility to the workplace and relieve young mothers who would like to return to work.

It’s an admirable aim, but there is only so far socially manipulative legislation can go before it becomes grossly counter-productive. David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, has made a strong case against further law.

“Last week we saw changes to the default retirement age, in April we've got changes to the right to request flexible working. We've got maternity coming in April and now that's changing again.

"If you’re a small business owner you’re going to say: 'Look, I’m going to do anything but recruit people'.”

It's a common refrain. Women should be encouraged back to work, and preferably full-time work. But the government can ill-afford to temper the ambitions of small businesses at this time. The gender gap remains (at nearly 22 percent overall). Biology and the life choices it inspires demand that there will always be a gap, and 40 years of anti-discrimination law and equal pay acts have not subverted that fundamental; the IEA published an important pamphlet on the subject recently. Rather than introducing yet more invasive law; a new approach should be sought.