Paternity leave in the UK is the least generous in Europe, an international study has found, as it says policies are "implicitly matriarchal".
The study of 47 nations' policies branded the UK the "laggard" in Europe with a leave policy that eschewed gender equality for the idea that women should be the main carers of young children.
This "matriarchal" approach stemmed from the Government's decision to put maternity leave of 52 weeks at the heart of its parental leave policies, said Peter Moss, the UCL emeritus professor of early childhood provision who led the international research.
This was the longest maternity leave of any of the 47 nations but it was also the worst paid, with 46 of the 52 weeks at a low flat rate of £151.97, or unpaid for the last 13 weeks.
By contrast, European countries tended to give new mothers between three and four months of leave at full pay or high earnings related level of 80 to 90 per cent of the woman's salary, said Prof Moss.
"Our leave policy hangs around a very long maternity leave period, which is based on the fact that for the first year of life the appropriate carer should be the mother rather than accepting that it could be shared ," said Professor Moss.
"It goes back to the 1970s where for reasons that are obscure we took up long maternity leave. The normal pattern of other countries is to go for short, well-paid where we have gone for long but patchily paid."
It found UK parental leave was also among the weakest, amounting to four unpaid months per parent but only usable at the rate of four weeks per year.
In Sweden, parents can choose whether to take their leave in one block or divided into several shorter blocks.
Germany, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have a single period of post-natal leave that does not distinguish between the three different kinds of leave, maternity, paternity and parental leave.
The researchers said the UK had "shared parental leave" but it was not a "right" for the father of the child as it was up the woman whether to transfer the leave to their partners. Few father took up the maternity leave because of the low flat rate pay if they did opt for it.
"To add to this disappointing picture, there is a gap of nearly three years between the end of well paid (maternity) leave and the beginning of an entitlement to early childhood services, when children are three years old," said Prof Moss.
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