Measures that grant workers paid time off when they become parents have not always benefited the lawmakers who have created the rules.
In Britain this week, Parliament updated the law so that senior government officials could take paid maternity leave without needing to resign their posts.
Only a few countries, including the United States, do not mandate paid parental leave at the national level.
Here is a look at how politicians around the world have navigated parenthood.
Britain’s attorney general will take six months of leave.
On Tuesday, Britain’s attorney general, Suella Braverman, became the country’s first cabinet official to take paid maternity leave without stepping down from her post, after Parliament changed a law that would have required her to do so.
Ministerial and Other Maternity Allowances Act, one of Ms. Braverman’s colleagues will temporarily fill her role during the six months that she is on leave.
“I may be the first, but I won’t be the last,” Ms. Braverman said on Twitter.
Although some welcomed the change as long overdue, critics said the measure was rushed through to benefit Ms. Braverman and objected to the fact that the new rules did not apply to all members of Parliament, who are paid their full salary while on leave but who are not guaranteed to have a replacement.
Paternity leave is unequal.
While Britain’s new law makes provisions for six months’ paid maternity leave, it does not offer similar benefits for new fathers in the cabinet, beyond the country’s statutory two weeks’ paternity leave. Of the 26 ministers who attend Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet meetings, 21 are men.
Even in countries that guarantee a long paternity leave, men do not always take it.
Last year, Japan’s environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, was praised for setting a strong example for the country’s famously workaholic fathers when he announced that he would take time off to care for his newborn child.
Still, he said he planned to take only two weeks of paternity leave spread over three months, despite being entitled to up to a year, like all new fathers in Japan.
returned to her post within a week of her daughter’s birth, despite being guaranteed 10 weeks off under French law.
Two years later, a politician in Spain, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, faced intense scrutiny after skipping her right to six weeks of paid maternity leave and returning to work within 11 days of giving birth.
Benazir Bhutto became the first elected head of government to give birth while in office when she was the prime minister of Pakistan in 1990, and later reportedly wrote, “The next day I was back on the job, reading government papers and signing government files.”
Are other countries updating their laws?
There are countries leading the way in encouraging lawmakers to take parental leave and making accessible policies to allow them to do so.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand took six weeks of leave after the birth of her daughter in 2018, passing her duties to her deputy.