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Call for new dads to have paternity leave on 90% pay

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By Al Ferguson

Al Ferguson is the CEO and founder of The Dadsnet.

Published on 20/03/2018

A brand new report, released today, states that fathers should receive 1 month off work for paternity leave when their partner or wife has a baby AND be paid 90% of their salary.

The current state of affairs is such that fathers simply cannot afford to take time off work to be with their newborn baby. Statutory pay for 2 weeks is far from sufficient for families to still pay the bills thus forcing dads to either take precious annual leave allocations or have no time off at all.

We surveyed 1000 dads from within The Dad Network and here’s what some said:

I decided not to take paternity for my second child as I’m the only working parent. If I had, I would have lost over half my weekly wages for two weeks. I just took it as annual leave, full pay.  It’s the only way I could do it and pay the bills

Most families can not afford to be able to support each other when they need it the most.

Had 3 days paid paternity then had to throw as much of my own leave in as I could to get what time I could manage. I was entitled to the 2 weeks but statutory paternity pay is so pitifully low, I couldn’t have fed everyone for the month let alone paid any bills.

Only got standard paternity leave, so two weeks which which flew by & cost me over £1000 in the process (to clarify, this was lost earnings, rather than cost).

The headline from our research is very straightforward…

An overwhelming 97% of dads are highly dissatisfied with the current paternity offerings from the government. Fathers want to take paternity leave, but simply can’t afford to.

But what about Shared Parental Leave?

These stats speak for themselves. The extremely minimal take-up of shared parental leave in the UK, estimated, at about 2% of 285,000 eligible couples annually, has happened because the policy is all wrong. Other countries around Europe with shared-leave entitlements have uptake statistics at the opposite end of the spectrum. 91% in Iceland, for example.

The Shared Parental Leave policy has quite frankly been nothing but a disaster at the taxpayer’s expense.

So where are we now on Paternity Leave?

The women and equalities committee, chaired by conservative MP Maria Miller, will argue the gender pay gap will be closed only if men are more involved in bringing up their children. That seems to me like the women & equalities committee’s actual agenda is the gender pay gap disparities. Which, again, begs the question whether paternity leave is of any importance here or just a tool used for a greater end.

None the less, it’s still a good step for the committee to be putting forward the following recommendations to parliament:

  • Statutory paternity pay should be paid at 90% of the father’s pay (capped for higher earners) to help ensure that all fathers, regardless of income, can be at home around the time of their child’s birth;
  • The Government should consider the costs and benefits of introducing a new policy of 12 weeks’ standalone fathers’ leave in the child’s first year as an alternative to shared parental leave when it reviews the policy this year;
  • The Government should legislate immediately to make a reality the Prime Minister’s call for all jobs to be advertised as flexible from day one unless there are solid business reasons not to;
  • The Government should harmonise workplace rights for fathers who are agency workers or self-employed with those employed fathers where practical – for example by introducing paternity allowance similar to maternity allowance.

In my humble opinion, these are genuinely good suggestions. It’s just that, I really don’t think the government will listen to these recommendations. At least, they haven’t for the last 20 years!

Why do I say that? Because this report seems nothing more than an argument from a women’s organisation about gender pay gaps. No-where in the report do they ask actual working fathers what they really want.

If they did, and if the government really wanted to help father’s out with regards to paternity leave, the solution would be simple:

Offer father’s the same as mother’s and the uptake would be huge.

Research, conducted over in the states demonstrates that mums & dads think and feel the same when it comes to parenting. Working fathers are as likely as working mothers to say they’d prefer to be at home with the children. And just as a fun fact to back this up further, Google/Ipsos in 2017, say that millennial fathers watch more parenting-related videos on YouTube than mothers.

And further still, this is what dads from The Dad Network’s recent survey had to say:

I am a firm believer that shared leave shouldn’t mean the mother had to sacrifice her time, and that it is time the governments realised the importance of giving dads the time to bond with their children and to support the mother in those initial weeks.

Dads are parents as well and effected by childbirth too. #dadsdontbabysit #parentaswell

This all adds up to state, very clearly, that if fathers were to be offered the same as mums – allowing new parents to choose leave options completely freely on a level playing field – fathers would take leave in far bigger numbers than we’ve seen before.

A new policy like this would also save so much government money. There’d be no need for large promotional campaigns, instead, it would all just click into place with mums and dads equally taking up leave and becoming normal; just like the Scandinavian parents that we hear so much about.

Do I think this is a step in the right direction?

Yes, but in order for recommendations such as these to come to fruition, we need fathers speak up. Not women’s organisations using paternity leave laws as means to their own end (although that is, of course, important) but rather a community of fathers campaigning for genuine reform.

Now, where could we find a community of dads?


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  1. AthenaC

    I”m really fortunate to work for a company that has a gender-neutral parental leave policy of 16 weeks to be taken sometime within the first year. Some people take it all at once and some people break it into 2 – 3 chunks. Just in the last year or so, I’m seeing it become more normalized for new dads to take time off to stay home with their babies for a bit, and I can’t tell you how awesome that is.

    It’s better for BOTH men and women when it’s normal for both parents to take leave because it reduces the motherhood penalty that usually only women experience in their careers from missing time on maternity leave (and turns it into a gender-neutral parenting thing), and it’s also better for the kids who get to see more of both of their parents during that new-baby stage.

  2. Charlotte

    I would love to share maternity with my husband but the thought of going back to work early whilst breastfeeding would be unbearable. At 9 months with my first I was still regularly feeding during the day and was in great discomfort when I returned to work as my body was still trying to care for baby.

    I believe men should be encouraged to take more time off (with pay!) as this would also close a lot of the pay gaps between men and women, so there’d be less discrimination. It needs to be a cultural shift to recognise the wonderful work dads do (and support mums in the process)

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