Paternity leave take-up drops to lowest level in 10 years
Paternity leave take-up has hit a 10-year low, with only approximately a quarter of eligible fathers (27%) taking paternity leave after the birth of their child.
Just 176,000 men took paternity leave in 2020-21*, compared to 652,000 women who took maternity leave over the same period.
After an increase in the mid-2000s, the number of men using their right to paternity leave has stalled and, in recent years, declined from a peak of 221,000 in 2016/17.
Limited take-up of paternity leave is likely due to the low rate of Statutory Paternity Pay, which is just £152 per week. The added financial pressure of the pandemic will have increased the reluctance of some men to take time off work with statutory paternity pay set at such a low level.
Working from home has also likely impacted these numbers slightly, with many men having been able to see their children whilst also working from home, discouraging them from taking proper paternity leave. Furlough may also have allowed fathers to see more of their new born children, but even when taking this factor into account, the number of men taking paternity leave is still worryingly low.
"For a lot of men, taking paternity leave has become a luxury they can’t afford during the pandemic. At a time of huge pressure on household finances, volunteering for a pay cut to £152 a week just isn’t viable for many people."
Paternity leave – a positive for both families and businesses
Paternity leave has a wide range of benefits for all involved. It allows fathers to bond with their new children and allows families to spread the childcare burden more equally between parents in the weeks following birth.
Fathers being allowed to take paternity leave is also good for businesses, fostering better employee mental health as new fathers feel supported to take time off and are not forced to prioritise work ahead of their families.
However, the current parental leave system is not working as intended, with the low rate of paternity pay on offer being the major barrier to increased take-up.
The well-meaning policy of shared parental leave is not working as it should. The rate of fathers taking up paternity leave has remained stubbornly low for years and has now actually started to decline. If the Government is aiming to increase use of the paternity leave, bringing the level of pay closer to the National Minimum Wage would be a good first step.
* Year end March 31 2021
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For more information on this update, or any Employment matters, please contact Jon Taylor.