Employers are being urged to offer more help for families after new research revealed that half (53%) suffer financially when fathers or partners take paternity leave.
Published today (9 June), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) survey found that one in five (21%) parents did not take any paternity leave, with more than a quarter (27%) saying the key reason was because they couldn’t afford a drop in income.
The research, carried out among more than 2,000 respondents with children under six years old, further showed that half (50 %) felt they were unable to take a sufficient amount of paternity leave to help their families.
TUC policy officer Matt Creagh said: “There’s a lot employers can do to support their staff when they become new parents. A great start would be to offer increased paternity pay. It’s clear that paternity leave is not an affordable option for too many families.
“Employers could go even further and create a period of standalone parental leave for dads/partners, that they can use throughout the years after their child is born to care for their child and make it easier for their partner to go back to work.”
Creagh suggested that bosses could create a workplace culture where dads and partners can have a proper break once their newborn arrives, explain that no one should be under pressure to work while on paternity leave.
He added: “And I’d encourage employers to work with unions to carry out an audit of their staff to find out if there are groups of their workforce who will be prevented from taking paternity leave because of their employment status or income levels.”
The TUC study also found that 86% of parents with a household income of more than £60,000 take employer-provided statutory paternity leave, but this drops to 65% where income is less than £25,000.
Additionally, 14% of fathers or partners take paternity leave that is more generous than the statutory amount in households with a total income of less than £25,000, compared to 35% where the income is £80,000-plus.
Nearly one in five (18%) still work in some capacity while on paternity leave, which rises to nearly one in three (30%) among those who are part-time. Around one in five (22%) do so because of workload pressures and a similar number (19%) do so because of pressure from employers.
Claire McCartney, senior resourcing, and inclusion adviser at CIPD, said: “With rising childcare prices and the cost of living squeeze it’s not surprising that families are struggling financially. It is so important for both parents to have quality time with their newborns and fathers should not feel squeezed out of this important time.
“As such, we think the Government should enhance the statutory paternity/partner provision to six weeks at or near the full rate of pay, so that both parents can afford to have quality time with their new families and to help deliver more balance and choice over the distribution of caring responsibilities and better reflect the changing nature of modern families. Organisations don’t need to wait for government change in this area but can start to enhance their parental policies where they are able to do so.”
The TUC believes a complete overhaul of the parental leave system is needed, and wants ministers to: increase statutory paternity pay, extend parental leave and introduce day-one parental leave and pay rights to all.
Currently, statutory paternity pay is £172.48 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower, while paternity leave is one or two weeks.