February 9, 2015 / 8:40 AM / 3 years ago

Labour Party pledges to double paternity leave if elected

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband gestures as launches his party's 2015 election campaign, at the Lowry Theatre in Salford, north west England January 5, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Yates

LONDON (Reuters) - The Labour Party said on Monday it would double the length of paid paternity leave for new fathers to a month if it wins a national election on May 7, a pledge that drew criticism from some business leaders.

Labour, neck-and-neck with Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives in many opinion polls, said it would also boost paternity pay by more than 100 pounds a week to at least 260 pounds, equivalent to the minimum wage.

Only around 55 percent of British fathers take up the current allowance of two weeks paid leave, Labour said.

“More fathers want to play a hands-on role in childcare particularly in those first crucial weeks of a child’s life but are frustrated by out-dated laws and entitlements,” Labour leader Ed Miliband said in a statement.

But John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, described the pledge as “a tax on business,” adding his voice to criticism of the party from other business people who have accused it of running an anti-business agenda.

“Although well-meaning, proposals such as this create very real costs for businesses, which can in turn lead to reduced productivity, reduced growth and fewer jobs,” he was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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