Although shared parental leave comes into effect early next year, a new report has found that just ten per cent of new fathers currently take more than two weeks of paternity leave.

The study entitled “Shared opportunity: Parental leave in UK business” found a number of cultural and financial barriers that account for the low level of take up, which drops to just two per cent among managers.

The report suggests that organisations are culturally less accepting of a father’s rights to take paternity leave. It found that 63 per cent of employers support mothers taking up to a year’s maternity leave, while only 58 per cent were supportive of fathers taking just two weeks paternity leave.

Almost half (46 per cent) of the employees surveyed and 58 per cent of managers said that parental leave was disruptive for their organisations. Three quarters of managers (72 per cent) felt parental leave affected the efficiency and productivity of their teams.

Fathers were also paid significantly less on average by their employers when on leave. While 70 per cent of new mothers received full pay for between one and 38 weeks of maternity leave, just nine per cent of new fathers received full pay for longer than two weeks when on paternity leave.

This “paternity pay gap” not only creates practical financial barriers to shared parental leave, it also projects a cultural expectation that women are the ones taking extended periods away from the workplace, which may impact on their career progression.

Gender gaps in terms of salary and career progression are often associated with female employees taking time out to start a family. Despite changes to legislation on parental leave, there remains an ingrained expectation in many organisations that mothers will take on primary childcare in the first year of a child’s life.

Currently, mothers are entitled to take up to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave and fathers one or two weeks statutory paternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child. From 2015, a mother will be able to choose to switch to the new shared leave scheme if she wishes. Eligible mothers and their partners will be able to take up to 52 weeks of leave in total, to be shared between them either in alternating blocks or taken together.

Neil Todd at Thompsons Solicitors said: “The findings of the report are disappointing and are consistent with analysis undertaken by the TUC published in June last year.”
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