The low rate of statutory paternity pay is contributing to the lack of uptake. Claimants receive just £151.20 or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lowest. Many couples cannot afford for both parents to take leave from work on a vastly reduced income.
The government should consider raising the amount of statutory paternity pay as a way of incentivizing more fathers to take leave.
Men continue to receive mixed messages over the importance of taking paternity leave. Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron both took time off when their children were born whilst they were in office. However, Boris Johnson chose not to go on paternity leave following the birth of his son earlier this year.
“It’s important that more fathers take paternity leave and share childcare responsibilities with their partner. This would help mothers return to work earlier and progress in their careers, which in turn would help reduce the gender pay gap.”
Only 130,000 men claimed paternity pay in 2005/06 with the figure rising to 209,000 in 2012/13. However, the number of men claiming paternity pay has remained static since then.
With two thirds of men still not claiming paternity pay, gender imbalances that still exist at home and in the workplace are unlikely to be ironed out. The Government should consider raising statutory paternity pay to boost uptake. This would be an enormous step towards reducing the parental leave gap and allow more fathers to support their partners and bond with their babies.
Attempts to improve the situation with shared parental leave have still not put much of a dent in the problem. However, as many more people are currently working from home and are likely to continue doing so for some time yet, fathers may now find that it will become easier to balance professional and caregiving responsibilities.