More paid paternity leave could help close the gender pay gap, according to a new report.
Research by the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP), Pregnant Then Screwed and Women in Data found that boosting paid time off for new fathers to six weeks may also make women and men’s participation in the labour market more equal.
The Leave in the lurch: Paternity leave, gender equality and the UK economy report revealed that in countries where dads get more than six months of paid paternity leave, the gaps in gender pay and labour force participation are four percentage points and 3.7 percentage points smaller respectively.
Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “We finally have evidence that boosting paternity leave will reduce the gender pay gap, improve the health of both parents and it will benefit the economy. Paternity leave is not a luxury but a necessity.’’
In the UK, statutory paternity leave is two weeks paid at £172 per week, which is around 44% of the national living wage. According to a YouGov survey carried out for Pregnant then Screwed and CPP, one in five (20%) of fathers did not have any parental leave options when their child was born or adopted.
Of those that did get some time off work but went back early, 43% said financial hardship was the key reason for doing so. Additionally, 63% of all new dads said that at the time of returning to work they weren’t mentally ready.
The study further found that only a minority (18%) of prospective mothers and fathers believe they or their partner could afford to take six weeks of paternity leave at the statutory rate. In contract, 57% would be able to if they received 90% of their regular income during that time, as women on maternity leave currently do.
CPP and Pregnant then Screwed are therefore urging the government to give dads six weeks of non-transferable paternity leave paid at 90% of their regular income, as well as enhance current maternity rights. They believe this would ease financial hardship, as well as reduce the gender employment and pay gaps.
Figures from the YouGov poll also showed that nearly two-thirds (65%) of mums with children under 12 think boosting paid paternity leave would positively affect mothers being ready to return to work.
In terms of mental health, nearly three in 10 (29%) of respondents said they or their partner had experienced related issues in the two weeks after their most recent child was born, with 45% receiving no support or treatment.
Most (83%) of mums with under 12s believe more paid paternity leave would positively impact the mental health of mothers.
Rosie Fogden, head of research and analysis at CPP, said: “While long-held societal norms about gendered parenting roles are shifting, the UK’s parental leave system has not kept pace. As our findings show, it is still very difficult for many fathers and second parents to be able to afford to take leave when their children are born, and this has serious consequences for both parents’ mental health. If the UK wants to reduce the gender pay gap and stem the growing demand for mental health services, government policy must send a strong signal about the importance of both parents’ role in providing childcare from the very beginning of a child’s life. Extending paid paternity leave could also help us to close the gender pay gap, which in turn could boost the economy.”