Our call for a rethink on paternity and parental leave: sign + share our new parliamentary petition
A coalition of charities, advocacy organisations and researchers have joined the Fatherhood Institute in sending an open letter calling on the Government to rethink its announcement that it will not reform the UK’s statutory paternity and parental leave system.
On 29 June the Department for Business and Trade, led by Kemi Badenoch – who is also Minister for Women and Equalities – published its response to its own consultation on “high-level options for reforming parental leave and pay with a view to achieving greater equality in parenting and at work”, four years after launching it in 2019.
The response set out just one substantive change: it will allow fathers to take paternity leave in two separate blocks of one week of leave at any time in their baby’s first year. The Government claims this will widen take-up of paternity leave but provides no evidence to support this.
In our open letter published on LinkedIn, we and our partner organisations and individuals urged Ms Badenoch to reconsider the Government’s response – which we believe flies in the face of evidence that reforming the system could bring positive impacts for families, employers and the economy, and fails to address hard-working families’ financial challenges.
Why we are acting now
A fifth of fathers aren’t eligible for paternity leave, because they haven’t worked for their employer for long enough to qualify, are not employees, or are self-employed.
Recent surveys show that many fathers who are eligible can’t afford to take the leave, because it’s paid at such a low rate.
Statutory paternity pay (£172.48 per week) represents just 47% of the National Living Wage (assuming a 35-hour working week) and 25% of average male earnings. This means that an average-earning, full-time employed father whose employer offers only statutory paternity pay stands to lose £1,021.04 if he takes two weeks’ leave.
Mothers whose partners cannot afford to take leave, and who don’t have family nearby, may be left to recover from birth and establish breastfeeding without support, often with limited access to health services. And families face financial stress at a time when they should be relaxing and enjoying their new baby.
The Government could have widened eligibility, added more leave and/or raised the statutory rate, but has done none of these things. Nor has it acted to reform the shared parental leave (SPL) scheme, which has been widely criticised because of low take-up, complexity and un-affordability.
The Government’s own evaluation of SPL confirms that the tiny percentage of parents who are eligible and use it (1% of mothers and 5% of fathers) are more likely to be older, white, highly qualified, work in large organisations, earn a higher income, be in senior occupations and have progressive gender role attitudes.
We and several other key organisations – Pregnant Then Screwed and the Centre for Progressive Policy; Maternity Action; and the Fabian Society – have all, in the period since the consultation was launched, published calls for a rethink of the system. We highlighted these proposals in our letter to Ms Badenoch, and invited her to reconsider.
Sign and share our petition
The Fatherhood Institute has also launched a Parliamentary petition, calling for 6 weeks’ well-paid leave for fathers/ partners in their baby’s first year. If 10,000 people sign this by the end of 2023, the Government will have to respond; if we can get 100,000 signatures, there will be a parliamentary debate. Please sign and share the petition now!
Share your thoughts at a webinar
Northumbria University Responsible Business Group has organised a webinar on 12 September 2023, at which we, Pregnant Then Screwed and Maternity Action will present our thinking about how the UK should best improve its statutory ‘offer’ for fathers. Please come along and share your thoughts.