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Paternity leave

The question

Prime Minister Tony Blair is considering how much paternity leave to take when his fourth child is born. But how important is paternity leave and how easy is it for civil engineers to take?

I think paternity leave is a good idea - but the main beneficiary is usually the mother, not the newborn child.

I was allocated five days' leave by my employer Arup in the late 1980s at the birth of my daughter in Germany. Due to pressure of work at the time I spread my five days over a six-month period. In hindsight, I should have taken the daysin the period immediately following my wife's return home when it would have been most beneficial to the family.

Not taking paternity leave isstill well down my list of failures as a father. A short-term gesture in itself won't make a great difference to family life in the UK, but the current mood change in favour of paternal responsibility for childcare in the country may make a difference.

Ian MacGillivray, Capital Works co-ordinator, Inverness

I don't think anyone would argue against the principle of paternity leave.

With the increasing geographical dispersion of the family, it is becoming more difficult for family members to help out. So it makes sense that the father should be able to pitch in with the changing, washing and feeding duties during the early weeks.

However, with higher pressure on margins, employers are hardly likelyto want key members of staff to disappear out of the office for even more time than they do already. Never mind the fact that the proud father is likely to be behaving like a zombie through sleep deprivation.

Chris Prangnell, group engineer

Paternity leave is essential, if for no other reason than to look after the siblings. There is plenty of time to rearrange the workload, because leave is booked nine months ahead. I don't know anyone who has had difficulty in taking annual leave for this purpose. But the cost of extra paternity leave must be borne bythe Government, otherwise there would be an unfair impact on those employers with a workforce of child bearing age.

John Sreeves, 42, senior engineer, Swindon

It is important to spend some time with a newborn child,but more to give support and help to the mother, rather than the infant, who is too young to be aware of the father's presence.

It is more important to be able to spend sufficient time with children all through their development, and not be a shadowy semi-absent figure constantly preoccupied with the job.

Bernard Rochester

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