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In the wake of the recent debate over whether or not Prime Minister Tony Blair should take time out to spend with baby Leo, the AJ decided to take a look at architectural practices'attitudes to paternity leave.

To comply with statutory regulations, 'parents' leave' allows fathers to take up to three months unpaid leave from the day the child is born up until he or she reaches the age of eight. This legislation was introduced in November 1998 as a result of a European Union directive.

In addition, many large architectural practices offer some paid paternity leave - the Richard Rogers Partnership exercises an exemplary policy, giving fathers up to one month paid leave. Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners offers five days paid leave.

But many small practices claim that the cost of providing paid paternity leave would be crippling, and there are no government incentives to alleviate the cost. Some 86 per cent of practices in the RIBA Directory are one or two person practices, which suggests that a high percentage of architects do not enjoy the benefits available to employees in large firms. The RIBA's Architects for Change forum promotes equal opportunities and is campaigning for improved parental leave for both sexes. Its chair, Sumita Sinha, says that self-employed architects are hit hardest by the financial pressure of parenthood.

But some architects do manage to combine childcare with practice. Matt Keeler of the two-man practice KSK Architects left Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners about six years ago to set up his own practice and look after his new son Sam. Sam accompanied him to client and site meetings, but the success of this strategy is dependent on an understanding client.

Luckily for Keeler, his first commission was for a trendy advertising agency which didn't bat an eyelid when encountering father and son on site.

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