Parental Leave and Premature Babies: Filling In Policy Gaps

  • November 19th, 2018
  • Blog

This piece is part of a series connected to GenPol’s work on parental leave in the UK and beyond.

On 1 October 2018, the UK government revealed plans to consult on the possibility of publishing “parental leave and pay” policies for businesses with over 250 employees. Business secretary Greg Clark made the announcement as part of a series of new measures designed to support parents, and notably new mothers, in the workplace. Clark’s comments come in the wake of a concerning report from the Labour Market Outlook: Focus on Working Parents in 2017, which found that just 5 per cent of new fathers and 8 per cent of new mothers have opted to take up their legal right to the SPL (Shared Parental Leave) scheme, first introduced in April 2015.

The concerning figures do not stop there. In March 2017, the UK was ranked the third worst country in Europe for paid parental leave. Under current legislation, Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks, whereas fathers claiming Paternity Leave can choose to take either 1 or 2 consecutive weeks. The current wording of the legislation dictates that ‘paternity leave cannot start before the birth of the child, and must finish ‘within 56 days of the birth’. In the case of a premature baby, this leave can be extended to 56 days after the due date.

This somewhat dispassionate reference to premature birth is indicative of a wider gap in existing parental-leave policy. Current Parental Leave Legislation fails to set out any tangible guidelines to support parents confronted with a premature birth, and makes no allowances for the financial, emotional, and logistical impact this will have on their working life (or, indeed, on their return to the workplace). According to statistics published by the Premature Baby Charity Bliss,  up to 95,000 babies are cared for in neonatal units in the UK because they have been born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Parents often have to travel to hospitals on a daily basis and wait many weeks before their babies can actually return home.

In my case, it was three and a half months. I was born at 25 weeks, weighing 1lb 5oz (602g), and received treatment in a neonatal care unit from November 1990 to March 1991. Despite this, my family was, undoubtedly, very fortunate. My parents lived within easy commuting distance of an excellent NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and as secondary school teachers received a much more generous leave, and pay allowances, than the statutory minimum. My father’s school gave him 6 weeks leave on full pay without him having to ask (a particularly generous gesture given there was no statutory paternity leave available in 1990). My mother’s situation was sadly more complex. She was entitled to 3 months’ full pay, then up to another 9 months at steadily reduced pay. Complications arose when doctors thought it might be possible to stop her labour. If this had been the case, my mother would have had full sick pay up to my birth, and then 3 months on full pay afterwards. In the end I left the unit on the day my Mum’s full-pay leave ran out. She found herself at home with a new-born baby (her first), with a variety of health complications, and zero remaining full-pay leave to help ease this transition, from life in the unit to life at home.

(Ellen and her mum Maureen in the unit, December 1990. Photo Credits: Angus Walker)

Her situation, it seems, is still extremely common 28 years later. A lack of adequate parental leave (and pay) continues to be a prevalent source of stress among parents of premature children. More than half of new- mothers report anxiety and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following neonatal intensive care, and 40% of mothers develop postnatal depression following neonatal intensive care. Extra paid leave is a small gesture in the face of so much emotional strain, but is nonetheless an indispensable step in helping preemie parents, and especially mothers, feel supported in their return home and to work.

In October 2017, Sadiq Khan announced plans to grant extra leave for parents of premature babies, just months after a proposed Maternity and Paternity Leave (Premature Birth) Bill was scrapped in parliament. Under these new reforms, City Hall employees with a child born before 37 weeks will be entitled to a day’s premature baby leave and pay for every day between the date their baby was born and the due date. Both parents will also be granted additional neonatal leave, and pay, for every day their baby spends in neonatal care.

Whilst recent studies indicate that rates of survival rates for extreme preterm births are up from 40% to 53%, the odds still remain stacked against thousands of tiny babies across the UK. I do not think additional paid leave would have made these stakes seem any less terrifying for my parents, but I have no doubt that it would eased some of the financial and logistical pressures they had to contend with. My mother always used to say that having a premature baby was like being faced with an immense cliff face that all of us had to climb. Whilst no legislation or policy provision can ever efface the torturous traces of that ascent, it can go some way to making sure that cliff is less crippling for those who find themselves on it: an extra ounce of energy to help families keep the summit in sight.

Ellen Davis-Walker
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
(25 weeks)

`We Need More Trailblazers`: Paternity Leave in Japan

  • November 15th, 2018
  • Blog

This piece is  part of a series connected to GenPol’s work on parental leave in the UK and beyond. It is based on an interview between GenPol directors (Ellen Davis-Walker and Chiara De Santis) and Seira Yun of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who is currently researching Paternity Leave in Japan at the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation. We really enjoyed his personal take on the unique dynamics that underpin these parental leave provisions. We hope you will too!


What is the current situation facing new (or prospective) parents in Japan?

New (or prospective) parents in Japan can benefit from a very generous parental leave regime if they want to, but only few fathers take up these benefits.

Japan has one of the best statutory paternity leave regimes with regards to its length and leave payment. Concerning the length of the leave, each parent can take parental leave, as an individual entitlement, until the child is 12 months old. A parent on leave receives sixty-seven per cent of their salary for the first six months, then fifty per cent of the salary for the remainder. In addition, the leave payment is not taxable and the recipients are not subject to social security contributions. These leave benefits are funded by the Employment Insurance system, which is financed by contributions from employees, employers and the state.

This generous parental leave policy is related to the concerns in shrinking population. Given Japan’s low birth rate the Japanese government has been implementing policies to encourage more women to work and reproduce in order to maintain the labour force needed to sustain the social security system of an aging society. One of these policies is a generous paternal leave policy so that women can have children without sacrificing too much of their career.

However, very few working fathers actually take up the paternity leave benefits they are legally entitled to. According to a survey conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, the uptake rate of parental leave taken by fathers increased from 3.16 per cent in 2016 to 5.14 per cent in 2017 (compared with 83.2 per cent for working mother), which marked the highest percentage since the survey began in 1996 . In 2016, out of 3.16 per cent of the fathers who took paternity leave, more than 80% took less than one month of leave, and 56.9% took less than five days. The paternity leave uptake rate in Japan is significantly lower than in counties such as Sweden (88.3 per cent), Norway (90 per cent), Iceland (81 per cent), and France (62 per cent).

Why did you want to research the topic?  What exactly drew you to it?   

The idea for this research was born during a conversation with my wife. My wife and I discussed having a child, as well as practical arrangements for childcare because we both had full-time jobs. Given that we are both feminists, we’ve decided that I, as the father of any potential children, should take an equal, if not greater, share of childcare responsibility than my wife. As such, I started to study the paternity leave  policy in Japan. I was happy to find out that Japan has a generous statutory paternity leave regime compared to other countries. However, I was shocked by the huge gap between a generous statutory paternity leave policy and an extremely low uptake rate. I then started to search for information explaining the reasons for this discrepancy. While I found numerous studies on the same topic but conducted in different countries, I was not able to find academic articles examining the Japanese situation, except for a few.

Then I came across the case of Sony: an interesting case in regards to paterity leave; Sony has an extremely high rate of paternity leave uptake at approximately fifty per cent. However, there has been no academic research examining how Sony was able to change its organizational culture to encourage its male employees to take paternity leave. That’s why I decided to study Sony in order to understand how companies can change their organizational culture in order to create a conducive environment for working fathers to take up paternity leave.

What’s distinctive about Japan as a case study? What can we, and our readers, learn from it? 

As mentioned above, Japan is an extreme case in the sense that there is a huge gap between what is available for fathers and what they actually take up. We can learn from the case of Japan that just because we have a generous paternity leave regime, does not mean we can use it in practice. In other words, policymakers should be aware of the environment and set realistic policies at first and gradually get closer to the ideal. My friend Alexander Zapesochny gave me a valuable insight that perhaps more fathers in Japan would have taken paternity leave if the length of leave available were only four weeks. Because the gap between reality and ideal was so huge, for many, paternity leave exists only on paper. The case of Japan could provide an example that a ‘staircase’ approach rather than an ‘elevator’ approach get you faster to your destination.

In addition,  the case of Sony could provide the readers with valuable lessons on how we can create a conducive environment for fathers to take paternity leave even in a context like Japan where the majority of the population have not embraced the idea of paternity leave.

What do you think about the question of shared parental leave in addition to paternity leave? Can you outline your thoughts on these?

I believe that shared parental leave will not result in promoting gender equality, because the vast majority of shared leave will be used by the mother due to financial reasons and gender stereotypes. For instance, in Norway, the fathers’ uptake rate of shared parental leave was quite low until 1993 where the Norwegian government successfully increased the rate by reserving four weeks for fathers. If we want fathers to take parental leave, it should be an individual entitlement.

What do you think can be done to motivate employers to adopt and promote these policies in the workplace?

Firstly, researchers could conduct a quantitative analysis on the financial benefits of paternity leave. In fact, a study suggests that it is financially beneficial for employers if more male employees take up paternity leave because the recipients showed more job satisfaction and retention rate, both factors exceed the cost of their temporary absence. We need to mainstream this aspect of paternity leave. Second, brave people need to be the first ones to take paternity leave within the firm. Studies have shown that, once someone has taken paternity leave, many men follow suit many men follow suit. We need more trailblazers.

“Digital gender-based violence: can education stop abuse?” GenPol at the European Parliament.

  • November 9th, 2018
  • Blog

Hosted by MEP Mr Brando Benifei (S&D) 

Organised by GenPol, with IPPF Eropean Network, European Women’s Lobby & SOS Music Media, November 21st, 13h-15h.

Please register at this link by November 18th

 Cyber-violence is real, and harms millions worldwide. Digital gender-based abuse is a specific form of violence against women and girls, and includes phenomena as serious as revenge porn, gender-based slurs and online harassment, cyber stalking, and unsolicited pornography. While cyber-violence should be seen as a continuum of off-line abuse (research shows that traditional and online forms of harassment are correlated), digital violent acts have a unique and pernicious dimension. Due to the practical problems of policing the Internet, survivors of digital abuse are often forced to relive their experiences over and over again. Yet digital gender-based violence is still poorly understood, and its impact vastly underestimated. Awareness-raising work and formal and informal educational tools, targeting not only potential perpetrators among digital natives, but also Internet service providers, policy-makers, judiciary and law enforcement agencies, are urgently needed.

Following the publication of its first policy paper, “Can Education stop abuse?”, the gender think tank GenPol, together with IPPF European Network, European Women’s Lobby and SOS Music Media, is excited to invite you to a high profile advocacy event on these themes. Bringing at the European Parliament a pool of experts, policy-makers, civil servants and advocates, we will discuss how educational tools can be used to tackle digital gender-based violence. The panel will be followed by a lively Q&A, including contributions from education and women’s rights activists.


Mr Brando Bonifei, MEP

Dr Lilia Giugni- University of Cambridge & GenPol CEO

Ms Irene Donadio – IPPF European Network

Ms Asha Allen – European Women’s Lobby

Chair – Tanner Taddeo, SOS Music Media

Stopping Online Abuse: How Do We Make The Internet A Safer Place?

  • October 27th, 2018
  • Blog

This is the first of a two-part blog series by our Research Associate Venera Dimulescu, drawing on her first-hand research in to non-consensual pornography in Romania. In this first entry, she discusses the discourses and perceptions surrounding the rise of the ‘digital age’, and how we have failed to address the need for safety and security in our quest for progress.



During the two years I have spent researching non-consensual pornography in Romania, I’ve noticed that the problem in tackling online abuse is twofold: there’s a lack of accurate information about the digital world and an unsuitable choice of words in the construction of the narrative. When I started diving into the subject,  I noticed there was a lack of information about how Romanians deal with online violence. There were no case studies, no statistics: only fast internet connections and increasingly cheaper smartphones and laptops. Everybody seemed to know something about the phenomena from the internet. But nobody estimated the impact of online violence, nor did they have the knowledge to combat it. As both a researcher and a journalist, I wanted to find a way, and ask how the language we use could help change these perspectives.

You might be wondering how we’ve ended up here? A few decades ago, the internet was perceived as a space of great opportunity: an alternative to the real world, a place where the right to freedom of expression would knock down the rule of prejudice and discrimination. In the first period of the technological revolution, offline/online and human/machine dichotomies were the new extensions of the old-fashioned mind/body thinking. Computers were designed as machines which would enable humans to experience this brave new world mentally and anonymously, away from their biological identities. The physical body was perceived as direct evidence of prejudice forced upon people by social norms: your neighbour’s gender, skin colour or physical strength help you recognize social status and hierarchy. The reality, in fact, was quite different.

Despite its promise of an egalitarian future, online chat-rooms and public threads are hotbeds of violence against women. Anonymous hackers or trolls harass, frequently intimidate or steal personal information from women participating in the digital public sphere. One of the most widespread practice in online abuse is privacy invasion. Users often share intimate thoughts and images to strangers online, guarded by the comfort zone of their geographical distance, and many think their nudes are safe in their lovers’ private inbox. People often witness powerlessly how their personal lives are turned into public, accessible goods on the internet without their consent. In 2014, one in ten women living in the European Union were experiencing online abuse from the age of 15.

Over the course of the last decade, researchers have discovered that online abuse has direct impact on our lives. It leaves physical marks on the human brain, since psychological trauma is no different from physical trauma when it comes to our brain’s activity. However, information about the serious impact of online abuse on users’ mental health or legal protection often remains within the small academic communities. As GenPol’s policy paper highlighted, many European countries lack proper policies to combat and prevent online violence, although some have the legal tools.

As Internet users, we can only expect an increase in online violence, as the internet has pierced through almost all of the EU households and has become a global village with worldwide access to information. A proper educational model is needed to help people understand online social phenomena and their impact.
This should include teaching consent, privacy rights and legal protection online. But the first step in the process of understanding the digital world should be changing the narrative. It’s time academics used their privilege and built bridges in communication with teenagers, parents, teachers, politicians, authorities. By failing to address these gaps, we’re passively reinforcing epistemic injustice: victims won’t be equipped with the necessary vocabulary to describe their experience of abuse as we fail to explain the concepts to them with simple, accessible words.

My Time As An Intern at GenPol

  • October 12th, 2018
  • Blog

Having recently completed a summer internship at GenPol, I can now look back and reflect on my experiences. My role was to conduct research on whichever major projects were happening at GenPol HQ that week. I had known that GenPol was a broad and dynamic think tank, but it was not until I began my internship that I realised just how many different projects and ideas were on the go. This was something that really struck me, not only because of GenPol’s of relatively compact team, but also because despite having fingers in many different pies, the team remained organised and focused. GenPol is a bold and ambitious social enterprise and I feel proud and privileged to have been a part of it.

The work I carried out varied from week to week. The first week was focused on a project in collaboration with the African Technology Business Network. This was in relation to a new proposal that highlighted the importance of digital literacy, with regards to 6 chosen African countries. The project was concerned with how the increasing gender gap is widened by the lack of digital literacy amongst young girls, putting them even further behind their male counterparts.

I then was put on a project to study sexual harassment and bullying in the Arts. This covered a huge range of industries from music to theatre, to art and writing and much more. I uncovered research regarding what is commonly known as the ‘Superstar Effect’. This is when certain people high up in the industry are seemingly ‘allowed’ to behave often highly inappropriately due to the idea of these people as ‘creative geniuses’. In other words, their actions are excused because of the teleological consequences: their ‘masterpiece’. As the Arts are highly unregulated and saturated with freelancers, no formal structure is in place for reports to be made in the instance of abuse. We also came up with a ‘business case’ for why it is important that this abuse must stop: women are so often weighed down by this negative treatment, that it so often infiltrates their work. We thought to ourselves, how much more creative talent could we unlock by allowing women the same freedom many men have, to simply create, absolved of their negative experiences?

The majority of my internship with GenPol was focused on how Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) at schools, and consent workshops at universities can be improved. This was for an upcoming policy meeting with the Department for Education. This meeting would in part inform a publication that I was fortunate enough to become a co-author of: GenPol’s most recent report on Consent Training and Sexual Violence Prevention in U.K. Universities.

Despite the increase in consent training on a national level, the statistics remain harrowing. 70% of female students and recent graduates have experienced sexual violence, whilst 8%  have been raped at university. Through dialogue with practitioners in the field, as well as our workshops, we quickly discovered that consent workshops were being seen as increasingly effective methods in preventing sexual violence at universities, with more universities adopting similar practices year on year. We recognised that universities not only have a crucial role to play in assuring their students are protected from sexual violence, but a responsibility to do so in order to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all their students. Furthermore, we recommended that university staff members attend compulsory training on gender-based violence, with specially trained therapists to support survivors of sexual violence.

GenPol has taught me the value of high quality varied work. I had always been one of the only people in my family and friendship circle to see the infiltration of patriarchy in everything, whether it would be whilst watching TV, reading an advert on the tube, or even just walking down the street. Working at GenPol pushed this ability even further to look at everything, and I mean everything, from a gender lens. I further recognised how questions of patriarchy, gender and sexism are embedded in the fabric of our society. Those at GenPol are aware of this at all times, and I am too.

Now more than ever.


Lily Rosengard
Summer 2018 Intern



GenPol on BroadwayWorld – How to prevent abuse in the arts

UPDATE: On 16/10/2018 our partnership with University Women in the Arts has officially been announced on Broadway World. Read all about it!


18/07/2018. We’re excited to share BroadwayWorld‘s article on our partnership with University Women in the Arts!

Jennifer Tuckett, Director of University Women in the Arts: “We are delighted to be working with GenPol on this panel event as part of our new major project we are running with GenPol on how to prevent abuse in the arts. We hope the panel will offer important advice for female arts students, women wanting to work in the arts, and those who work with them in the education sector and arts industry”.

Lilia Giugni, CEO of GenPol: “We are thrilled to be partnering with University of Women in the Arts to help prevent sexual and gender-based violence in the art industry. Discrimination, sexism and actual abuse undermine the lives and careers of too many women artists. We hope the panel will offer a little taste of the forthcoming book on which we are working together and the solutions we propose.”

Read the full article here and join the panel discussion on July 20th 2018 as part of London Writers’ Week. Panellists also include The Guardian Higher Education Network editor Rachel Hall, playwright, mentor and Learning and Participation Manager at the Ovalhouse Theatre Titilola Dawudu, and playwright, Artistic Director and BBC New Talent Hot List writer Jingan Young.


[image credit: amira_a]

GenPol’s First Live Podcast: What Role Can Men Play In Gender Equality?

  • July 16th, 2018
  • Blog

You may remember that GenPol teamed up with our friends at SOS Music Media to record a live podcast on the role men can play in advancing gender equality?

If you didn’t manage to get a ticket, don’t worry! You can now listen to it here.

With huge thanks to everyone at SOS Media and The Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation who were our event sponsors. Don’t forget to share the podcast on social media (and give us a follow on Facebook , Twitter or Instagram if you haven’t already)



GenPol at London Writer’s Week- Panel Discussion with University Women in the Arts

  • July 12th, 2018
  • Blog

GenPol are teaming up with University Women in the Arts at London Writer’s Week for a panel discussion to explore how we can improve the transition for women from studying the arts to working in the arts.

Panellists will include our CEO Lilia Giugni- who will be discussing sexual harassment in the industry- as well as the editor of The Guardian’s Higher Education Network Rachel Hall,  playwright, mentor and Learning and Participation Manager at the Ovalhouse Theatre Titilola Dawudu, and playwright, Artistic Director and BBC New Talent Hot List writer Jingan You.

Join us on  Friday 20th July, 2pm  –3pm, at the Diorama Arts Centre, Regent’s Place, 201 Drummond St, Kings Cross, London NW1 3FE, UK.

Price: £5 (or included in the Festival Pass or Day Pass)

Get your tickets for the event here

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