A recent survey conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has shed light on the significant financial difficulties faced by families due to the low level of statutory paternity pay. The study also highlighted that one in five fathers or partners are unable to take any paternity leave at all. The TUC is now urging the government to address these issues by increasing statutory paternity pay and implementing a comprehensive overhaul of the parental leave system.
According to the TUC poll, more than half (53%) of families experience financial hardship when fathers or partners take paternity leave. This finding underscores the urgent need for reform in order to provide better support for families during this crucial period. Additionally, the survey revealed that 50% of parents feel that the time off they were able to take as paternity leave was insufficient to adequately support their families.
Lower Income = Fewer Paternity Leave
Shockingly, one in five parents (21%) disclosed that they did not take any paternity leave, with the primary reason being the inability to afford a reduction in income. Currently, statutory paternity pay stands at £172.48 per week or 90% of the individual’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. The duration of paternity leave is limited to one or two weeks.
The survey also highlighted the groups most affected by the current system. Low-income households and self-employed workers were found to be particularly vulnerable to missing out on paternity leave.
The study found that nine out of 10 fathers/partners with a household income over £60,000 took statutory paternity leave, but only one in seven (14%) of fathers/partners with a household income under £25,000 could afford to take leave. Furthermore, self-employed individuals faced significant challenges, as only 31% of self-employed fathers or partners were able to take time off when their partner had a baby since they are not eligible for any statutory paternity pay.
No Time for a Time Off
The TUC report also revealed that one in five fathers/partners (18%) reported working while on paternity leave, with this number rising to nearly one in three (30%) among part-time workers. Many felt compelled to do so due to the demands of their workload (22%) or pressure from their employers (19%).
This is why the TUC is urging the government to take a close look at the current parental leave system, in hopes that it will implement changes. Some of the changes the TUC have suggested are:
- Increasing the statutory pay to at least match the real living wage
- Providing individual leave allotments instead of families having to share the leave and pay (as is under the current shared parental leave)
- Giving parental leave and pay from day one in a job
Taking on a More Active Parental Role
It is not just mothers who need time with the family – be it to emotionally bond or to physically create a safe space. Moreover, building an emotional bond is not just the mother’s role but also the father’s. The preconceived notion of men not needing that time with their family, new kids or even partners is what is stopping fathers from taking paternity leave.
According to a report by McGill University on Paternity Leave, out of 126 surveyed employees, 100 of them felt happy about taking paternity leave and would take it again. Additionally, 90 of them felt their relationship with their partner improved. This is why it is important for fathers or partners to take paternity leave as it is not just about creating a bond with the child.
Even in this day and age, the burden of creating and maintaining a family lies on the woman, which increases her mental and physical load. Encouraging partners to take paternity leave would only take that burden off women and allow partners to take on a more active, supportive role.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak emphasized the importance of these changes, stating, “The arrival of a newborn is one of the most special moments in life. No parent should miss out on these precious first days.” He further stressed that without improved rights to well-paid leave, many new parents will continue to be deprived of valuable time with their babies, perpetuating the disproportionate burden on mothers for childcare responsibilities.
*Note: This article equally extends to non-heterosexual families and families with non-traditional parent roles.