Fathers can't afford paternity leave

Oct 27 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

British fathers are unwilling to take paternity leave because statutory levels of paternity pay are too low.

Research commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and commercial law firm Hammonds found unwillingness amongst new fathers to take up their statutory entitlement to two weeks paternity leave paid at the current rate of £102.80 per week:.

The research, which covered over 1,000 UK workers, including nearly 200 fathers of children under 16, found that almost a quarter of employees (23 per cent) have requested some form of flexible working. Almost nine out of ten of these (87 per cent) have had their requests granted by their employers.

It found that the key decision factor about whether to take paternity leave or not was money, with many feeling they simply couldn’t afford it at current rates.

Fewer than half (46 per cent) of fathers said they would take paternity leave at the current rate of pay if they had another child.

“I’ve still got bills coming in – anything less than full pay would be no good," one father told the researchers.

However, at 90 per cent of full pay the proportion of fathers saying they would take paternity leave increases to four out of five (80 per cent), and at full pay the figure rises to nearly nine out of ten (87 per cent).

The research also revealed some fathers are not using their existing entitlement to two weeks statutory paternity leave, preferring instead to take time off as annual leave on full pay.

But cultural and social factors also emerged as disincentives, while some employees also felt that employers were not being open about the right to take paternity leave, and were sometimes discouraged by this lack of openness.

The current time allowed for statutory paternity leave (two weeks) is considered adequate by the majority of workers. Half of employees (53 per cent) consider the current entitlement is ‘about right’, but four out of ten – particularly younger workers - think it is ‘not enough’. Only six per cent think the current entitlement is ‘too much’.

Duncan Brown, Assistant Director General at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said:

“We would have expected the rate of paternity pay to be one of the factors in the decision to take paternity leave. But with less than half of fathers willing to consider taking leave at the current £102.80 a week, and four out of five wanting to take up the opportunity at 90 per cent of full pay, the implications for any further family friendly legislation are clear.

“Flexible employment policies are becoming embedded in the UK world of work. But fathers tell us they can’t afford to spend time with their newborn children at current rates of paternity pay.”

Sue Nickson, head of employment law at Hammonds, said that employers could not be blamed for low levels of take-up of paternity leave: "Clearly from these findings the statutory pay level is a major disincentive to take up."

The CIPD said that if the government genuinely wants fathers to warm to the idea of paternity leave, they are going to have to "bite the bullet and offer more substantial financial support" rather than simply an entitlement to more time off.

But speaking at a summit yesterday to tackle the issue of "career sexism", trade and industry secretary, Patricia Hewitt, shied away from the idea of increasing paternity pay.

Instead, she reiterated her commitment to offering 12 months' paid leave that could be shared between both parents - a proposal that the British Chambers of Commerce said could have a "crippling" effect on many small businesses.