Fathers can’t afford paternity leave, finds TUC

Paternity leave is not taken at all by 21% of fathers, and financial worries are the biggest reason for this (27%).

More than half (53%) of families struggle financially when dads take paternity leave, according to a survey from the Trades Union Congress (TUC). 

Statutory paternity pay is currently £172.48 a week, or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower), and paternity leave is one or two weeks.  

The UK has the least generous paternity leave entitlement in Europe. 

More on paternity leave:

Low paternity pay makes fathers reluctant to take leave

Shared parental leave inequalities lead to unpopularity in UK

Talent war boosts maternity and parental leave packages

Amy Looper, author of Leading Motherhood, said employers need to carefully consider the financial impact of paternity leave, including bonuses and commission. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Compensation plans and bonuses need to allow for an employee to take leave and not be penalised for having a child.   

“For example, in the sales profession, many representatives must forgo commissions while on parental leave or even give up accounts.   

“Many return to work having to rebuild their businesses from scratch and often result in exiting the company due to this.   

“There are many reports of sales reps and executives losing hundreds of thousands when they go on leave due to the timing of a large commission or bonus.   

“Parental leave compensation must be clarified in every area, not just salary.” 

Half (50%) of parents don't feel they were able to take enough paternity leave to support their families.  

Joanne Waterworth, head of employer services at working parent charity Working Families, said financial reasons are only part of what limits paternity leave uptake. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “On the surface, a simple way of encouraging more fathers to take parental leave is to match their salary; many fathers indicate the loss of earnings will impact their choice. 

“But this is only part of the story. Cultural bias and blatant negative comments about parents can lead to many fathers not taking the leave, as they are concerned about how they will be treated by their colleagues.” 

Closing gender employment gaps in all UK authorities would increase economic output by £23 billion, according to a separate study from maternity charity Pregnant then Screwed (PTS). 

The study also found 18% of people in the UK think two weeks paternity leave is not enough. 

Lauren Fabianski, head of campaigns and communications at PTS said increasing the length of paternity leave would reduce gender inequalities in pay, career progression, employment, and the provision of childcare.  

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “If we are serious about closing the gender pay gap - we need to put policies in place for mothers and fathers that instigate equality from the get-go.  

“By having parental leave policies that are equal for both mothers and fathers, companies are giving the message loud and clear across the company that they support gender equality in childcare.”  

PTS is calling for statutory paternity leave to be increased to six weeks at 90% of income.  

The research found only 18% of prospective parents could afford to take six weeks of paternity leave at the current statutory rate of pay.   

However, if it was paid at 90%, the majority (57%) of prospective parents could afford to take six weeks of paternity leave. 

Waterworth said employers can help by going beyond current statutory requirements. 

She said: “If affordable, we strongly encourage employers to offer enhanced paternity leave - above and beyond the government's statutory provision – for two weeks at full pay or ideally longer.   

“Some employers have chosen to make access to paternity leave a day one right, removing the 26-week qualifying period.  

“Offering generous leave policies like this can establish an organisation as an employer of choice for parents, enabling these employers to compete for and secure the best talent.” 

She also emphasised the importance in promoting a family friendly culture to encourage parents to take up their leave requirements. 

“Creating a culture where fathers feel comfortable in asking for and taking paternity leave is essential for good take-up.   

“Role models and case studies from across the organisation talking about using their paternity leave and internal communications channels to raise awareness of parental policies can help convey that it is something that the organisation encourages as part of a family friendly approach to work.” 

The TUC polling surveyed 2,006 parents of children under six-years-old, between 3-6 February 2023. The PTS findings used over 20,000 responses to PTS’s ‘State of the Nation’ survey and applied weighting on UK regions, gender and social grade to get a final sample of 3,540 parents.