According to the TUC, 40% of fathers will not qualify for new rights to shared parental leave, mainly because their partner is not in paid work.

The Shared Parental Leave provisions came into force on 1 December 2014 and apply to parents who are having a baby or child placed with them for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. Mothers who have 26 weeks continuous service will be allowed to share up to 50 weeks of their maternity leave and 37 weeks of their pay with their partners, but mothers who don’t have a job (whether employed or self-employed) don’t have a right to maternity leave or pay that they can share.

In Denmark, Norway and Portugal fathers can take paternity leave at 100 per cent of their normal earnings. In Sweden and Germany families are given extra money if fathers share parental leave more equally with their partner.

By contrast, statutory paternity pay in the UK is just a quarter of the median weekly wage for full-time male employees and just over half the weekly wage for a worker earning the national minimum wage for a 40-hour week. As things stand, half of new fathers don’t take their full entitlement to two weeks statutory paternity leave – a rate that rises to 75 per cent for those on the lowest incomes.

The TUC wants the following changes to be implemented:

  • Make fathers’ leave a day one right. The TUC estimates that at least one in eleven working fathers are excluded from shared parental leave and paternity leave because they lack the necessary qualifying service with their employer.
  • Introduce an additional month of parental leave and reserve it for fathers only to use. Having some parental leave that is not contingent on a mother’s eligibility to maternity rights would open up paid parental leave to about 200,000 more fathers if the rights were made day one rights as well. It should be paid at 90 per cent of earnings so that most fathers, rather than a tiny minority, use it.
  • Improve statutory pay rates for all leave takers. Relying on employers to top up statutory pay means many families miss out, especially those on low incomes. Only one in five low-paid fathers gets fully paid paternity leave from their employer and only a quarter of low-paid fathers take their full entitlement to two weeks paternity leave after the birth of their child. Statutory pay for paternity leave and the additional month of father only parental leave should be increased to 90 per cent of earnings, mirroring the first six weeks of statutory maternity pay.
  • Introduce a paternal/parental allowance for those who don’t qualify for statutory pay. The TUC believes this would benefit over 90,000 self-employed fathers who get no support for taking time off work after they have a child; over 9,000 agency workers who don’t qualify for statutory pay because they’re not employees; and at least 44,000 fathers who are employees but don’t have the necessary length of service to qualify for statutory pay. This would mirror the Maternity Allowance available to mothers who don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay.

To read about the mechanics as well as the implications of shared parental leave, go to:

Jo Seery from Thompsons Solicitors commented: “The TUC research shows that unless good employers negotiate with unions to enhance shared parental pay, shared parental leave will remain an aspiration for the majority and not a reality.”