Until recently it had been more common for a female employee to take the leave required to look after a new baby. However this pattern is gradually changing: 221, 000 fathers reportedly took paternity leave in the year up to March 2017 (661,000 mothers took maternity leave in the same period) (based on HM Revenue & Customs figures).
Social, cultural and financial changes means that it can make more sense for a family if the father takes the lion’s share of leave from work to look after the new arrival. Earlier this year, an employment tribunal upheld a father’s complaint that his firm had discriminated against him for not giving him the same parental leave terms as for its female employees. It goes to show that businesses need to be informed, plan ahead and be fair.
Some key facts for employers about Paternity Leave:
- Paid paternity leave was first introduced in the UK in 2003. It means that fathers (or same-sex partners) can take 2 weeks of leave at £104.98 per week or 90% of the workers’ average weekly pay, whichever is lower.
- Employment rights of a worker on paternity leave are protected and include entitlement to pay rises and build-up of holiday time.
- From April 2015, either new parent, male or female, additionally has the opportunity to share parental leave giving either parent the chance to stay at home and look after the new arrival. The shared parental leave allows up to 50 weeks of leave (at £139.58 a week or at 90% of their average weekly wage), 37 weeks of which are unpaid.
- Parents can take shared parental leave during their child’s first year either at different times or together at the same time. The new shared parenting rights apply to all parents in work, married or otherwise, whether adopting or a same-sex couple.
- Paternity leave (2 weeks of paid leave) continues to be available to new fathers alongside the shared parental leave of 50 weeks.
Government guidelines on Paternity Leave and Pay are available here.
Low uptake by new fathers
The government’s attempts to boost gender equality in the workplace haven’t quite taken off yet. Greater numbers of men are taking the 2-week capped paternity leave rather than the longer shared parental leave. Of the 285,000 eligible working couples, only 8,700 of them used the shared scheme in the year up to March 2017. Some think a continuing cultural stigma is to blame for fathers not taking up the opportunity for longer leave while others point to financial pressures.
Paternity leave boosts employee engagement
Concerns from employers groups about the greater complexity facing businesses are understandable though the new parental rights are no more complex than a number of other administrative arrangements which firms are obliged to make.
Crucially, all good employers will want to make staff aware of the law and be supportive when their male employees are considering future arrangements for their new family. While paternity – and other parental leave schemes bring some admin burden, the pay-off can be greater in other ways.
In the long run, it’s good for employee engagement if workers are not worried about important aspects of their life outside of their workplace – whether they are male or female. Employers may find that offering parenting flexibility means that productivity will improve.
The Chronologic Workforce Management System offers excellent solutions for managing your workforce. It will help track flexible working, holiday and parental leave enabling you to plan ahead.