Paternity Leave: Are You Taking Your Time This Father’s Day?
June the 18th marks this year’s Father’s Day, a time to show love and appreciation for the father figures in our lives. However, only a tiny number of recent fathers are taking paternity leave according to figures from His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)1. So, this father’s day we ask a pertinent question – are you aware of your rights?
The Lack of Paternity Take Up
Just 204,000 fathers took their allotted paternity leave in 2021/22, only one third of those eligible. If one compares this to the number of mothers who took maternity leave, then the disparity is clear: 636,000 new mothers took their leave, a figure more than three times higher than that of fathers.
Meanwhile, Statutory Paternity Leave (SPL) and pay in the UK is among the lowest in all of Europe – 28th out of 34Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries2. Indeed, at £172.48 per week, the rate is less than half that of minimum wage, and far behind the median income for full time work at £652 per week3. As it currently stands, paternity leave also only lasts for a maximum of two weeks.
In comparison to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), the situation for new fathers is dire. Expectant mothers can look forward to 90% of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks before receiving £172.48 for the next 33 weeks. Campaign groups like the Fatherhood Institute have objected to this state of affairs, citing a ‘dad-shaped hole’ in UK family policy4.
Compounding these issues is the fact that up to a quarter of men are not even eligible for paternity leave in the first place, either because they are classed as self-employed or have been employed for less than six months.
Despite all this, the role that fathers play in the early lives of their children and the support that they can give to new mothers is invaluable. Furthermore, your employer may offer additional benefits, as well as increased pay and extra time off. To find out if you are entitled to paternity leave, read on.
Who Is Eligible?
In order to qualify for ordinary paternity leave in the first place, employees must fulfil the following conditions. They:
- Must have or expect to have the responsibility for the child’s upbringing
- Are having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement
- Must be the biological father of the child or the mother’s husband or partner
- Have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks leading up to the 15th week before the baby is due, or worked for that time until they are matched with a child for adoption or receive an official notification that they have been matched with a child from abroad.
Note that Ordinary Paternity Leave is unavailable should you choose to take Shared Parental Leave. In addition, those employees who are entitled to leave must take either one or two weeks consecutively and not odd days. You can start your leave from the date of the child’s birth, adoption or when the child arrives in the UK from elsewhere. Statutory Paternity Leave must be taken within 56 days of the birth or arrival of the child, expected or otherwise.
Should I Take Paternity Leave?
Even with the difficulties and restrictions currently placed upon paternity leave, global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company found some key benefits to taking paternity leave5. Their survey found that:
- 100% of respondents were glad that they took the leave and would do so again.
- 90% noticed an improvement in the relationship with their partner.
- 20% felt that the risk of a career setback was the main downside, but that the benefits outweighed that worry.
- The leave allowed fathers the ability to set the foundation for a more equal distribution of responsibilities in the future.
- An overwhelming majority of respondents believed that it helped secure a lifelong bond with the child.
- Working mothers found that their partners taking paternity leave resulted in greater support for their life and career.
What Can Employers Do?
As part of McKinsey’s study, respondents recommended three key factors that will encourage employees to take paternity leave. These include:
- A working culture that encourages leave (70%)
- Policy support from their employer (63%)
- An unaffected promotion timeline (30%)
What’s more, it is clear from their study that employers who offer additional benefits to paternity leave are looked upon more favourably by existing and prospective staff.
To help craft a paternity policy, or to see what you’re entitled to, why not get in touch with our professional team of experts by contacting us today on 01455 444 222 or email: [email protected]
1. HMRC. (March 2022). Year End Report. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1125182/HMRC_Annual_Report_and_Accounts_2021_to_2022_Print.pdf
2. Jackson, S. (5th July 2022). 20 Years After Introducing Paternity Leave, Why We Need To Do More For Fathers. https://employeebenefits.co.uk/sarah-jackson-20-years-after-introducing-paternity-leave-why-we-need-to-do-more-for-fathers/
3. UK Government. (2023). Paternity Pay Leave. https://www.gov.uk/paternity-pay-leave/pay
4. Fatherhood Institute. (2021). Time With Dad. http://www.fatherhoodinstitute.org/time-with-dad/
5. McKinsey, McGill University. (2020). A Fresh Look At Paternity Leave: Why The Benefits Extend Beyond The Personal. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/a-fresh-look-at-paternity-leave-why-the-benefits-extend-beyond-the-personal
James is our resident wordsmith and has many years of experience in writing about a huge variety of topics from HR to Occupational Health and beyond. He has been published in numerous magazines and news outlets, and especially enjoys researching and analysing the current trends in the modern business world.