More than half (53%) of families struggle financially when fathers take paternity leave, according to a new TUC poll.
The survey also reveals that half (50%) of parents don't feel they were able to take enough time off work as paternity leave to support their families.
And one in five (21%) parents told the TUC they didn’t take any paternity leave at all. The biggest reason for this – for more than one in four (27%) parents – is that they can’t afford to reduce their income.
Statutory paternity pay is currently £172.48 a week, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower), and paternity leave is one or two weeks.
The TUC poll found:
Low earners: Household income has a big impact on take up of paternity leave. Nearly nine in 10 (86%) of parents where the household income is over £60,000 take statutory paternity leave provided by their employer, but this falls to two-thirds (65%) of dads/partners with a household income under £25k. And only one in seven (14%) dads/partners with household income under £25k take a more generous form of paternity leave than just the statutory – compared to more than one in three (35%) where the household income is over £80k.
Self-employed: Only one in three (31%) self-employed dads/partners took time off when their partner had a baby. Self-employed workers currently aren’t eligible for any statutory paternity pay. The TUC warns this reduces their ability to take time off work for the arrival of a new baby.
The poll also revealed that nearly one in five (18%) dads/partners are still doing some work whilst on paternity leave – rising to almost one in three (30%) part-time workers.
More than one in five (22%) do this because of the demands of their workload, and a similar percentage (19%) feel pressured to do this by their employers.
Government action needed
The TUC is calling on government to completely overhaul the current parental leave system.
The union body wants ministers to:
Increase statutory paternity pay: Statutory paternity pay needs to increase to at least the level of the real living wage, to make it feasible for dads/partners to take time out to care for their new-borns.
Extend parental leave: Both parents need a stand-alone right to their own individual period of well-paid parental leave – which is not dependent on the other partner sacrificing some of their leave (as it is in the current shared parental leave system).
Give parental leave and pay rights to all from day one: Parental leave and pay rights should be accessible to all, regardless of employment status – including those who are self-employed, agency workers or on zero-hours contracts. Qualifying periods for parental leave and pay rights should be scrapped and they should be available from day one in a job.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “It’s not right that so many dads can’t afford to take time off work when their babies are born.
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“The arrival of a new-born is one of the most special moments in life. No parent should miss out on these precious first days.
“The UK’s parental leave and pay system needs an overhaul.
"Without better rights to well-paid leave, too many new parents will still miss out on spending time with their babies. And mums will continue to take on the bulk of caring.
“Ministers should give all dads better-paid paternity leave – and create a new right to well-paid parental leave just for dads, that doesn’t rely on mums giving up some of their maternity leave.”