This will be my last column for a couple of weeks as I’m off to get married next Sunday.
To give my colleagues a break from my ceaseless chatter about table plans and dress fittings, I permitted us to change the subject briefly to discuss an entirely different matter: the appropriate amount for guests to give as a wedding present.
Unable to reach a conclusion, I opened the question to Twitter. Answers varied from “zero if they have £20,000 to splash on a wedding yet you’re skint” to £150.
Some said £50 for close friends or family members and a £20 gesture for everyone else, while another responder said they would try to cover the cost of their meal at the wedding – likely to be quite a bit higher.
Others piped up with other contributing factors: does the wedding have an open bar? Have you already spent a lot on the hen or stag do? Do you have to travel a long way to get to the wedding?
Disappointingly the Twitter community was no more able to reach a definitive answer than the Telegraph Money team. What do you think?
Answers on a cheque.
Finally a good idea from Theresa May
She may not be in the nation’s good books – although let’s see how rose-tinted the glasses become once the next leader has had their stab at Brexit – but Theresa May has suddenly started talking sense.
I don’t mean her insistence in Prime Minister’s Questions this week that Jeremy Corbyn should never be prime minister – although she is absolutely right on that – but her proposal to extend paternity leave.
Mrs May wants new fathers to have up to 12 weeks off work, up from the current entitlement of a fortnight. The first four weeks would be paid at 90pc of salary by the employer, followed by eight week at the statutory rate of £148.68 or 90pc of salary, whichever is lower. Finally, in her 11th hour, a good idea from the country’s leading lady.
This newspaper has reported time and again how parental rights mean most families cannot afford for the father to look after the baby, allowing the mother to return to work. This is because maternity leave pays 90pc of your salary for the first six weeks, followed by 33 weeks at the statutory rate. New fathers can take two weeks at statutory pay.
Shared parental leave, introduced in 2015 to fix this discrepancy, has been a flop, appealing to just 2pc of eligible parents due to its complex structure and low pay. It allows new parents to split 50 weeks of leave between them but at the statutory, not higher, rate. Add to that the fact that most companies offer enhanced packages giving mothers but not fathers up to a year in the most generous cases at full pay.
Realising the inadequacy of state provision, private companies are increasingly offering better parental rights for employees. They have figured out what the Government has not: that it is crucial for a family’s financial health and personal well-being to be able to spend time with their babies.
Diageo, one of the largest companies in the UK, recently announced it would offer six months of full pay to all parents, male or female, upon the birth of a baby.
General Mills, the food giant behind Häagen-Dazs and Cheerios, now offers the same to all of its employees in the UK and Ireland, this newspaper can reveal. The $31bn (£24.4bn) company said the move was “to ensure parents are not adversely financially impacted in the long term due to the very important role of having children”.
In a letter to The Times this week, Clarissa Farr, the former high mistress of St Paul’s Girls’ School, said the failure of shared parental leave is “a damning reflection on Britain”, calling this country “one of the least family-friendly of the world’s most developed countries”.
It is questionable whether Mrs May is leaving the country in a better state than she found it, but introducing a more level playing ground that gives fathers better access to their children’s early months would go some way to brightening her legacy.
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How much do you think should be spent on a wedding present and why? Tell us in the comments section below.