The introduction of shared parental leave (SPL) in 2015 could have been a huge change for family for the better. Allowing parents to share a year’s worth of leave after the birth of a child would allow fathers to bond more with their children and allow the mothers some time to focus on their career again so they do not miss out on prospects at work. Yet nearing four years after it was announced, it appears that only 2 per cent of qualified couples are taking up the chance to split caregiving in their new-born’s early months.
Paid Paternity leave for the first two weeks
Paid paternity leave of two weeks was first introduced in 2003. The two weeks leave allows fathers or same-sex partners to take two weeks of leave at a rate of £140.98 per week or 90% of the person’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
Regardless of the government’s continuous encouragement for working men to contemplate taking more time off for their family responsibilities, the decrease in interest levels evidently shows that men do not see the chance to take leave as a feasible option.
Funds, it seems, is the main reason why many have not gone down the SPL route. For the first six weeks, the person on leave gets 90 per cent of their earnings, then it falls to £139.78 per week (or 90 per cent of earnings, whichever is lower) for the next 33. After that, you’re just doing it for the love.
What about other countries? Do they have a better paternity package?
Global research shows that a total of 28 countries have better paternity leave and pay schemes than the UK, with most of them offering 100% paid leave rather than just 80%. There are also numerous countries that offer dads leave periods that really put the the UK’s current two weeks leave policy to shame.
Dads in Sweden receive a total of 18 weeks paternity leave, which is better than any other country in the world. That’s 80 extra days with their baby than fathers in the UK. Sweden also has a very substantial parental leave schemes in the world. Parents of either gender are permitted to stay at home with their child for a total of 480 days while getting 80% of their salary. This is to reassure new dads that they can stay at home if they wish.
With just 1% of dad’s in the UK sharing parental leave its showing that shared parental leave schemes are not working here and that dads are still missing out on the bonding times with their new born baby. In comparison, dads in Iceland have a total of 12 weeks’ paternity leave precisely for new dads at 80% pay. That’s 50 days more than those living in the UK. Slovenia has a similar scheme of 12 weeks’ paternity leave, with two of those weeks set at 100% paid and then the remaining at 80%.
In these setups, there is a acknowledgement that it is valuable for children to spend time at an early stage of development with both parents – and that both partners have a duty of care which they should take seriously.
Shared parental leave, correctly applied, is good for children and parents but also for the sake of gender equality. The attitude of the nation should shift to encourage fair treatment of both males and females both in the workplace and in domestic situations.
For that, we need more incentives for men in the UK to get involved in the everyday care of their children; and we need to stop pretending that looking after a baby is easy work too.
Know your rights
Want to know about maternity and paternity employment rights? Do you feel that you have been treated unfairly? Contact JMR Solicitors for all your employment law matters.