Analysis by law firm EMW finds take-up of paternity leave has fallen over the last year.
Paternity leave take-up has hit ‘a 10-year low’, with only approximately a quarter of eligible fathers (27%) taking paternity leave after the birth of their child, according to analysis by law firm EMW.
Just 176,000 men took paternity leave between April 2020 and March 2021, compared to 652,000 women who took maternity leave over the same period.
EMW says that, after an increase in the mid-2000s, the number of men using their right to paternity leave has stalled and, in recent years, declined from a peak of 221,000 in 2016/17.
It puts low take-up down to the low rate of Statutory Paternity Pay, which is just £152 per week – the same as women receive for the 33 weeks following the initial six weeks at 90% of pay.
EMW says the added financial pressure of the pandemic may have made some men more reluctant to take time off work with statutory paternity pay. It adds that furlough and working from home have also likely impacted these numbers slightly, with many men having been able to see their children whilst at home, discouraging them from taking proper paternity leave.
It states: “Paternity leave has a wide range of benefits for all involved. It allows fathers to bond with their new children and allows families to spread the childcare burden more equally between parents in the weeks following birth.
“Fathers being allowed to take paternity leave is also good for businesses, fostering better employee mental health as new fathers feel supported to take time off and are not forced to prioritise work ahead of their families.
However, the current parental leave system is not working as intended, with the low rate of paternity pay on offer being the major barrier to increased take-up.”
It is instead calling for Statutory Paternity Pay to be brought closer to the National Minimum Wage.
Maternity Action say they feel the suggestion of a ’10-year low’ is an exaggeration of what has been happening and that Covid, particularly furlough, was the major factor in last year’s figures rather than pay. Nevertheless, they recognise that parental leave pay is too low and are campaigning for a rise in the statutory rate. They said: “EMW are somewhat over-egging it with their ’10-year low’, and wrong to blame it on the rate of pay. Full data shows both maternity and paternity pay numbers pretty steady, until the dip in the latter last year, which is clearly pandemic/furlough-related.”