‘A very important moment’: Fathers should use shared parental leave, says Norwich MP

Chloe Smith MP returns to work after maternity leave.

Chloe Smith MP returns to work after maternity leave. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Chloe Smith has urged her male colleagues in Westminster to share parental leave with their partners as she returned to work this week.

The Norwich North MP, who had her first child last September, took six months off after her son Alastair Hugh was born. Her husband Sandy McFadzean is now taking six months paternity leave.

Her comments come after a cross-party group of MPs raised concerns about the number of fathers not taking up shared parental leave because they could not afford to - or did not know they could.

Evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee showed that just over half of fathers said they would take advantage of the opportunity to share parental leave. Of those who would not, almost a third said it was because they could not afford to, while a quarter did not know about the right, which was introduced in 2015 to give parents more flexibility around caring for their first child in the first year.

Ms Smith said the introduction of shared parental leave - which gives men and women the same rights to take time off when they have children - was a 'very important moment'.

'It should no longer be the case that an employer might look at a women during a job interview and say 'ahh well we would like to have her, but is she going to go off an have children?' The point is a young man could equally do the same.'

'I do think it is very important that people see the opportunities that shared parental leave gives them, if it is right for their family. I hope they can make use of them. I am pleased if what I am doing provides an example.'

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While she said she did not want to lecture people about what was right for their family, she said she would love to see her male colleagues do the same.

Ms Smith said it had been a 'wrench' making the transition back to work and like every working parent she was 'really conscious of the balance that lies ahead'. 'You are deeply responsible for a lovely little child and you have to balance that with other responsibility, in my case I care deeply about my constituency duties and my work in parliament.' Ms Smith said her husband had to look after their son for hours at a time in a dusty room at the back of parliament when she returned for the debate and vote on the triggering of Article 50.