Election 2015

Election 2015: Lib Dems say parental leave plans will end 'hapless dad' image

Nick Clegg and Jo Swinson at a soft play centre in East Dunbartonshire
Image caption Nick Clegg and Jo Swinson promoted their parental leave plans at a soft play centre

Reforms to paternity leave will end the stereotype of "hapless or bumbling" fathers, the Liberal Democrats say.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been promoting his ambition to triple paternity entitlement as well as existing plans to allow parents to share their leave.

The Lib Dem leader has also responded to a poll that suggested he could lose his Sheffield Hallam seat on 7 May.

He said he was "not complacent but confident" of holding on.

According to the latest poll by Lord Ashcroft, Mr Clegg trails Labour by two points.

The Lib Dems pointed out the Ashcroft survey did not name the candidates, saying the party fared better when names were included.

'Great pleasure'

On a campaign visit to Scotland, Mr Clegg - who had a 15,284 majority from the Conservatives in 2010 - said: "I'm confident - not complacent but confident - that we're going to win. That's what our own polling and our canvass returns show."

He said he would be knocking on doors in his constituency over the Easter weekend and described being MP for Sheffield Hallam as "one of the greatest pleasures of my public life".

The party acknowledged its plans to extend paternity leave entitlement to six weeks would not be welcomed by all businesses, but said there would be benefits for some employers through better staff retention.

The policy, which the Lib Dems said would cost £58m a year, would apply to fathers in all parts of the UK except Northern Ireland, which has separate employment laws.

It would entitle fathers to paternity pay at the statutory rate, currently £138.18 a week.

Cable warning

The party also highlighted rules to allow some couples to share their parental leave which come into force for babies due on or after 5 April.

Lib Dem Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said: "Shared parental leave is my proudest achievement as a minister and I'm delighted that it finally becomes a reality this week.

"It will help drive a cultural change that champions the role of dads, but we can go further to challenge the gender stereotypes that all too often write fathers off as hapless or bumbling."

Meanwhile, BBC chief political correspondent Vicki Young said the Lib Dems were keen to get some of the credit for the economic recovery after over 100 business leaders signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph supporting the Conservatives.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the bosses should be "careful what they wish for".

He told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "If we do get the Conservatives in government, what they have promised to do is take action that could potentially take us out of Europe with all the threat to the jobs and the future in the single market, and these deep ideological cuts which will affect things like education and skills and science and our industrial strategy."

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