According to recent research from the TUC, just 9,200 out of more than 900,000 eligible parents chose to use shared parental leave last year. Four years after the system as introduced, the TUC found the take-up of shared parental leave was still so low because the majority of new fathers could not afford to live on of the weekly payment of £145.
Aside from a mother’s mandatory leave of two weeks after childbirth, new parents have 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay to divide between them. Both the shared pay and leave must be used in the first year after the child is born or, if adopted, once the child is placed with the family. Introduced in 2015, shared parental leave can be taken in either blocks or consecutively. Additionally, parents can decide whether to be off work at the same time or to stagger the leave and pay.
The organisation who carried out the research believes that if paternity leave pay was increased to at least minimum wage, it would allow half a million dads to spend more time with their new babies. The TUC also suggests fathers have their own paternity leave, which should be available from the first day in any job (including zero-hour contracts and self-employed roles).
TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, concluded:
“Without better rights to well-paid leave, many new parents will continue to miss out on spending time with their children, and mums will continue to take on the lion’s share of caring responsibilities.
“Dads need leave they can take in their own right. It shouldn’t rely on mums giving up some of their maternity leave.”
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