Less than a third of eligible men take Paternity Leave

by Jon Taylor

8 March 2023

The number of men taking paternity leave is continuing to fall suggests research. Approximately 31% of eligible new fathers (203,000 men) used paternity leave in the last year* versus 32% (213,000 men) in the previous year.

654,000 women took maternity leave in 2018/19. The numbers suggest that efforts to dramatically increase the use of paternity leave are failing.

The percentage of eligible men taking paternity leave has now fallen for four years in a row having been 34% in 2014/15 (see graph below).

The growing gap between uptake of maternity leave and paternity leave may in part be due to the increasing number and percentage of men in forms of employment that lack the right to paternity pay, such as the ‘gig economy’ and other forms of self-employment.

Data from the ONS shows that men make up 69% of gig economy workers**. Men also make up a large majority of those in self-employment overall (74%). For those in self-employment there is no statutory paternity pay and consequently many men cannot afford to take unpaid time off following the birth of a child.

The declining number of men taking paternity leave over recent years is in stark contrast to the number of women taking maternity leave, which has increased from 621,000 in 2014/15 to 654,000 in 2018/19.

In an attempt to encourage more men to take paternity leave, the Government introduced Shared Parental Leave in 2015. However, take-up of the scheme has been very slow, with just over 1% of eligible new parents using any Shared Parental Leave in 2017-18.

Jon Taylor, Principal in our Employment team says: “This trend seems to suggest that the current policy of increasing the usage of paternity leave and have men take a up a greater role in childcare is struggling. The rise of the gig economy has meant that for a lot of men, taking time off for the birth of a child has become an unaffordable luxury.”

“Taking time off unpaid is not an option for a large number of men, especially when the costs of providing for a newborn child are taken into account.”

“While the problem is particularly acute among gig economy workers and the self-employed, even those who are eligible for paternity pay still face a pay cut by taking time off.”

“Shared Parental Leave is a very well-meaning policy, but it has not yet made any significant inroads into the issue of men being unable to take paternity leave. In fact, the gap between men and women taking time off for the birth of a child is actually widening.”

The data is based on claims filed by businesses with HMRC to reclaim Statutory Paternity Pay.

Jon Taylor adds: “Whilst some businesses may decide not to claim the cost of paternity pay from the Government (and therefore would not show up in the figures) it is hard to say whether that would make any material difference. However, going on the official figures, it is worrying that the number has not moved in the last six years despite all the encouragement for men to take more paternity leave. That combined with the relatively low take up of shared parental leave calls into question whether “family friendly” policies are really working”

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) allows mothers to claim 90% of average weekly earnings for 6 weeks, followed by a weekly rate of £148.68 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for 33 weeks. Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) only allows fathers to can claim up to 2 weeks of Leave at a weekly rate of £148.68 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

Imbalance between the use of maternity and paternity leave continues to grow

* Year end March 31 2019. Source: HMRC
** Source: RSA Good Gigs Report, April 2017
*** Source: ONS Trends in self-employment, February 2018

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