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UK workers want longer paternity leave

The UK government does not plan on increasing the duration of statutory paternity leave - ©Prostock-studio/Adobe Stock

Fathers should have seven weeks off work to spend with their newborns, instead of the current UK standard of two weeks, according to the findings of research commissioned by the insurer QBE.

Of the 2,000 UK adults that took part in the survey, fathers who were eligible for paternity leave took on average three weeks of leave. When asked why they did not take longer, most respondents said that their employer’s parental leave policy would not allow it.

Talking to HR magazine, Charlotte Speak, who runs Power of the Parent, a coaching consultancy for working parents, said: “There’s a hunger for change among parents, and employers have the power to make it happen.”

Read more: Flexible paternity leave plans announced by government

Susannah Dale, founder of the Maternity Pledge business which supports working mothers, agreed. She told HR magazine: “Employers should talk loudly and openly about dads taking longer paternity leave. They should champion success stories so it becomes the norm.”

Alison Green, director at WOMBA (Work, Me and the Baby), an organisation that supports working parents, said: “For all parents to bond with their newborn, share caring responsibilities and manage their careers, employers should entitle all employees to 26 weeks of enhanced parental leave, at 100% pay."

Speak said HR leaders wanting to offer increased support for new fathers and partners should go beyond policy and look at culture.

She added: "Increased support for working parents will pay for itself in the impact on engagement and commercial performance.”

Read more: Fathers can't afford paternity leave, finds TUC

Though QBE’s survey suggests strong support for longer paternity leave allowances, Amy Looper, a mindset coach and founder of the consultancy Resilient Growth Unleashed, highlighted that many fathers and partners are not taking the current two-week leave entitlement.

She told HR magazine: “Fathers often do not take full advantage of parental leave due to fear of being seen as weak in the workplace. Leaders need to encourage men to utilise this benefit, removing the stigma.”

Legislation is set to come into force next month, the Paternity Leave Amendment Regulations 2024, which will allow fathers or partners greater flexibility in taking their statutory paternity leave.

The new rules allow eligible new parents to separate statutory paternity leave into blocks, rather than having to take one continuous block of leave. The move would benefit parents whose children are born or adopted on or after 6 April.

The legislation would also mean that employees could give less (28 days rather than 15 weeks) notice of their intention to take paternity leave. But currently, the UK government does not plan on increasing the duration of statutory paternity leave.

Sally Morris, partner and head of employment and HR services for MFG Solicitors, said: “These government changes move the goalposts and will see businesses and HR teams having to not only be more prepared but to ensure that their paperwork is amended in time and in line with the new rules.

“As with all employment legislation changes, it needs companies to stay one step ahead so they can advise employees properly, but also protect themselves.”