From April mothers will be allowed to share up to 50 weeks of their maternity leave and 37 weeks of their pay with their partners.
However, analysis carried out by the TUC shows that two-fifths of working dads with a child under one would be ineligible, mainly because their partner is not in paid work. Mothers who don’t have a job (whether employed or self-employed) don’t have a right to maternity leave or pay that they can share.
The TUC says that it welcomes shared parental leave, but is concerned the new scheme will have a very limited impact because of the rules around eligibility and low statutory pay.
According to the government’s own projections as few as 5,700 men are expected to apply for shared parental leave over the next year.
The TUC estimates that shared parental leave would be open to around 200,000 more fathers each year if their rights to take leave weren’t dependent on the mother being in work and it was a day one right.
The UK is still decades behind other countries when it comes to rights and financial support for new dads, says the TUC.
In countries like Denmark, Norway and Portugal fathers can take paternity leave at 100 per cent of their normal earnings. And in countries like Sweden and Germany families are given extra money if fathers share parental leave more equally with their partner.
By contrast, statutory paternity pay in the UK is just a quarter of the median weekly wage for full-time male employees and just over half the weekly wage for a worker earning the national minimum wage for a 40-hour week.
Half of new dads don’t take their full entitlement to two weeks statutory paternity leave – a rate that rises to three in four for dads on the lowest incomes.
The TUC says that without better rights to leave and pay, many fathers will continue to miss out on playing an active role in the first year of a child’s life.
The TUC wants all new dads to have access to some parental leave that is not tied to their partner’s employment status and is well-paid.
The TUC wants the following changes to be implemented:
· Make fathers’ leave a day one right, as maternity leave is – The TUC estimates that at least one in eleven working fathers are excluded from shared parental leave and paternity leave because they lack the necessary qualifying service with their employer.
· Introduce an additional month of parental leave and reserve it for fathers only to use – having some parental leave that is not contingent on a mother’s eligibility to maternity rights would open up paid parental leave to about 200,000 more fathers if the rights were made day one rights as well. It should be paid at 90 per cent of earnings so that most fathers, rather than a tiny minority, use it.
· Improve statutory pay rates for all leave takers – relying on employers to top up statutory pay means many families, especially those on low incomes, miss out, says the TUC. Only one in five low-paid fathers gets fully paid paternity leave from their employer and only a quarter of low-paid fathers take their full entitlement to two weeks paternity leave after the birth of their child. Statutory pay for paternity leave and the additional month of father only parental leave, which the TUC proposes, should be increased to 90 per cent of earnings, mirroring the first six weeks of statutory maternity pay.
· Introduce a paternal/parental allowance for those who don’t qualify for statutory pay – the TUC believes this would benefit over 90,000 self-employed fathers who get no support for taking time off work after they have a child; over 9,000 agency workers who don’t qualify for statutory pay because they’re not employees; and at least 44,000 fathers who are employees but don’t have the necessary length of service to qualify for statutory pay. Such a benefit would mirror the Maternity Allowance which mothers who don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay can claim.