Many families can't afford to have fathers take statutory parental leave
The TUC have published new research for Father’s Day which shows that twenty per cent of new fathers wouldn’t have qualified for paternity pay yesterday.
The analysis reveals that more than a fifth of fathers who’ve had a child in the past year did not qualify for two weeks’ statutory paternity pay. 131,000 working dads – out of the 600,000 new fathers – missed out.
99,000 working fathers – three quarters of the total – were denied paternity pay because they were self-employed, while over 32,000 were employees with less than six month’s service in their current job – disqualifying them from the statutory right.
The TUC analysis comes from the latest Labour Force Survey, from the last quarter of 2015.
As Jill Rutler noted, from April 2015 fathers have been able to split leave more equally between parents, in a move that is meant to promote greater gender equality. However, a year on from this policy change, less than one per cent of male employees are taking up shared leave.
For paternity pay, the law says that male employees must have at least six months’ service with their current employer by the 15th week before the baby is due, in order to qualify for paternity leave.
The TUC believes many more fathers – on top of the 131,000 ineligible – do not take paternity leave because they can’t afford to, meaning they miss out on one of the most important times for parenthood.
The UK has some of the weakest statutory paternity rights in Western Europe, with some European countries offering equal – or even mandatory – paternity and maternity leave.
Many in higher-paid and in professional jobs get fully paid paternity leave from their employers. However, the TUC are concerned that many at the lower end of the income scale can’t afford to take the time off because statutory paternity pay is just £139.58 a week – half what someone earning the minimum wage would earn over a 35-hour week (£252) and less than a quarter of male full-time median weekly earnings (£567.20).
The TUC are calling for the government to introduce a ‘paternity allowance’ for fathers not eligible for statutory paternity pay – a scheme similar to maternity allowance which self-employed mothers and mothers who haven’t been with their employers long enough can claim.
Meanwhile the union confederation are highlighting the fact that mothers have the right to maternity leave from their first day in the day – while fathers have to wait six months – so are calling for paternity pay to be a right from day one.
Commenting on the analysis, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
‘All fathers should be able to spend time with their families when a new baby comes along.
‘Paid paternity leave and shared parental leave have been important steps forward, but many families are missing out on these benefits – or simply can’t afford to use them.
O’Grady stressed the importance of stronger rights at work, on top of statutory entitlements:
‘When fathers share caring responsibilities it helps strengthen relationships, improve child well-being and makes it easier for mothers to continue their careers. We’d like to see all dads being given a right to longer, better-paid leave when a child is born.
‘I would urge all parents and parents-to-be to join a union to make sure their interests are represented and their voices heard at work.’Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.