Paternity leave slow to catch on


Only one in five fathers in the UK is taking up their paid paternity leave entitlement, according to government figures.

When the scheme was launched in April 2003, the government forecast that eight out of ten of the 400,000 fathers eligible for a fortnight's paid leave would choose to take time off.

But figures for the year to April 2004 obtained from the Inland Revenue by Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrats' trade and industry spokesman, suggest that just 79,000 did so.

However with the statutory rate of paternity pay set at only £102.80 per week, it is little wonder that many fathers prefer to take leave as fully-paid holiday instead.

"It may be that men don't want to take time off work to help look after their newborn baby because they're worried what their male colleagues will think,” Malcolm Bruce said. “Worse, they may be afraid their boss will hold it against them."

Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC agreed: "The UK's long-hours culture puts enormous pressure on fathers not to take their paternity leave. Added to this, rather than lose pay and take paternity leave, lots of new fathers may be more likely to take annual leave instead."