Maternity leave... for men?


Nicola Brewer, the head of the Equalities And Human Rights Commission, is proposing new legislation that will give men up to twelve weeks paternity leave at 90% of pay. She hopes the measure will give men the "same parental rights and responsibilities women have."

In reality, the proposal is meant to correct the problems caused by maternity rights legislation. According to the Telegraph:

Many employers are happier to simply bin job applications from women of child-bearing age. They can afford neither the maternity benefit - soon to be extended by the EU from nine to 12 months - nor the potential law suits.

Giving men maternity leave would supposedly allow women to work, allowing men to stay home. Brewer and her populist colleagues, however, fail to grasp the most basic principles of economics. Economic growth is a factor of production, and production a factor of incentive.

If both a husband and wife can get time off to mind their children and still get paid, why wouldn't they? Meanwhile, companies will be stuck with the deadweight of temporarily unproductive employees. This is not to say--for the record--that there should be no maternity leave whatsoever for women.

Biologically, women need some time off to recover from childbirth and to care for the child (men don't lactate yet--although we could see legislation soon requiring it so men and women are equal). The current nine month leave, soon to be extended to one year, is simply too much and ultimately hurts women who want to work. If men want an extended break, they should quit or negotiate a deal with their employer.