Johnson will not take paternity leave, No 10 says on International Women’s Day

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Boris Johnson will not take paternity leave because he is too busy, Downing Street revealed just hours after discussing with female business leaders the issue of fathers taking time off to look after children.

The Prime Minister, who describes himself as a feminist, will use a future reshuffle to boost the number of women around the Cabinet table, allies said.

But he looks set to break a commitment to take a period of paternity leave following the birth of his son Wilfred in April last year.

His press secretary Allegra Stratton said: “He listened to the recommendations they made about childcare cover and whether there’s enough of it. He also listened to their hope that we can have a push on getting young women into Stem subjects – science and technology, engineering and so on.

“And lastly, but not leastly, he was also interested to hear what they have to say about whether enough dads take time off to look after their children.”

Downing Street had previously said Mr Johnson was expected to take a “short period” of paternity leave following the birth of Wilf, his son with Carrie Symonds, in April 2020.

But Ms Stratton told reporters: “He is the Prime Minister and he works a very long day, he has a huge workload and I don’t think he will be taking paternity leave.”

There are currently five female ministers in full Cabinet roles and Ms Stratton indicated that could increase at a future reshuffle.

She told reporters: “We know that there is improvement to come in the years ahead when he – who knows when this comes – when we have promotions to Cabinet.

“He does accept that he would like to improve how representative his Cabinet is of the population at large.”

There were a “great number of talented women” in the Government, she said, highlighting the work done by children’s minister Vicky Ford and care minister Helen Whately.

The Prime Minister used an International Women’s Day post on social media to pay tribute to some of those involved in the fight against coronavirus.

The Prime Minister praised the work of Professor Sarah Gilbert, who helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, former vaccines taskforce head Kate Bingham, medical regulator boss Dr June Raine, and NHS England’s Dr Emily Lawson and Dr Nikki Kanani.

“This International Women’s Day I want to pay tribute to some of the leading figures in the UK’s vaccination programme,” he said.

“Their ingenuity, dedication and hard work is an inspiration to all of us.”

Professor Gilbert’s work “helped to accelerate the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, meaning that manufacturing and the rigorous testing regime started early”.

NHS England's Nikki Kanani
NHS England’s Nikki Kanani was one of the women highlighted by Boris Johnson for their involvement in the Covid-19 vaccination effort (Tolga Akmen/PA)

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), led by Dr Raine, was the first watchdog in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine for use, paving the way for the rollout of the jab.

Dr Lawson is leading NHS England’s vaccine deployment programme, while GP Dr Kanani is the medical director for primary care.

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