Labour to extend Paternity Leave

Fathers are increasingly involved in family life, with 7 in 10 younger working fathers now regularly dropping off their kids at school. And mothers and fathers increasingly want to be able to enjoy the early weeks and months of their children’s lives together – but too many parents can’t afford for fathers to take up their entitlements.

Fathers currently receive just two weeks paternity leave paid at the statutory rate (currently £138.18 a week) – an entitlement that only about half (55 per cent) of fathers currently take up. Beyond these two weeks fathers have no independent right to parental leave.

The coalition introduced a provision for mothers to be able to transfer any proportion of their paid maternity leave to fathers from April 2015. But take up was expected to be minimal at between two and eight per cent of qualifying families and just one per cent of fathers are currently taking up the current right to additional paternity leave. Many stakeholders are concerned that complexity and the lack of any additional paid entitlement for fathers means that few parents will be able to increase the time they spend together in the early weeks of a new born baby’s life.

Labour’s approach
Labour is announcing a major extension of paternity leave to help families spend more time together with a new baby:

  • We will double the amount of statutory paternity leave from two weeks to four, and
  • To help more families take up leave without putting their budgets under pressure, we will increase the level of pay by over £100 a week, so that dads receive the equivalent of a full week’s work paid at the National Minimum Wage – to at least £260 a week.

 

This will be funded by the savings to tax credit and universal credit payments on childcare from our policy of extending free childcare for working parents of three and four year olds to 25 hours a week.

Many companies have already modernised their workplace practices, and give fathers pay and leave over and above the minimum; many major employers including Shell, National Grid and CitiBank already go beyond statutory provision, to ensure that fathers get the support they need. Labour wants to help those companies who are recognising the needs of working families with more support from government, as well as ensuring that all fathers are able to spend time with their new baby.

Q&A

How much will this cost?
The IPPR estimate that extending paternity leave to four weeks paid at the level of 40 hours at the NMW would cost £150m in 2015/16, on top of existing spending on statutory paternity pay. They assume that take-up amongst dads will increase from 55 to 70 per cent.

The House of Commons Library estimate that extending free childcare to three and four year olds to 25 hours a week will reduce spending on government spending on childcare through tax credits or Universal Credit by around £175m.

Isn’t this another burden on business?
The best businesses are already doing this, and our plan will reduce their costs, with the extra costs of paternity pay being met by government. These businesses know that, to ensure that they retain the talents and skills of parents in the workplace, they need to recognise the way families today want to share work and care, rather than see families forced to rely on holidays, or to drop out of work altogether if they want to spend time with a new baby.

At present, many fathers feel they are getting a bad deal at work, with fathers twice as likely to have a request for flexible working turned down than mothers. This is about building a culture where business who are going further are rewarded, but all fathers get the chance to spend time with their new baby, wherever they work.

What’s the evidence that dads will take this up?
This is popular with parents – an EHRC study found that over two-thirds of men and women in the UK would support stronger paternity leave .

International evidence also shows that when countries introduce dedicated paternity leave at a decent rate of pay, fathers are keen to take this up – in Norway, for example, the proportion of men taking some leave increased from four per cent to 89 per cent after the introduction of a better paid one-month period of paternity leave.