Labour’s proposal to increase statutory paternity leave by two weeks will do little to encourage take-up, according to leading HR directors.
It may also force organisations that offer full paternity pay during the current two-week entitlement to downgrade their benefits package to statutory pay for the remaining half, the HR chiefs said.
Will extending statutory paternity leave work?
“I don’t believe that take-up of paternity pay will increase as a result of this as statutory paternity pay does not make the leave an attractive option for many parents.”
Mandy Ferries, head of HR, Wetherspoon’s
“Nice idea, but clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel of employment legislation. Paternity leave hasn’t really caught on in a big way, largely for economic reasons, and unless it was paid at 100% of normal salary or pretty close, then I don’t think it will.”
Keith Luxon, HR director, Veolia Water
“In households where the father is still the breadwinner, they may be more inclined to take two weeks as annual leave as some do at the moment. So I wonder whether new fathers may be able to afford this?”
Emma Vernon, HR adviser, APM Group
The Labour Party election manifesto promised on Monday to introduce the “fathers’ month” in a bid to combat notoriously low take-up of paternity leave. The latest figures show that just half of fathers use it.
But the HR professionals – part of Personnel Today’s HR election panel – warned the increase would have little effect.
Liz Bell, HR director at B&Q, told Personnel Today: “The challenge for most fathers is the loss of earnings when paternity leave is capped at a statutory minimum in many businesses. The current take-up is very low, and so there is no reason to anticipate an increase.”
The vice-president of European HR at shipping logistics company APL, Neill Clark, agreed. “At a time when families are experiencing additional cost, it is unlikely to have a huge take-up, as most families would find the cost of doing so prohibitive. It is also yet another piece of administrative burden for employers to manage.”
Many employers enable dads to take two weeks at full pay under the current entitlement.
However, Jonathan Cawthra, group resources director at housing association Affinity Sutton, said: “Adding two more weeks would cause us to look again at the level of payment we make. It’s entirely possible that we’d decide that the additional two weeks wouldn’t be at full pay.”
Personnel Today’s HR Election Panel
Personnel Today has put together a panel of leading HR chiefs from across industry sectors to help readers digest election coverage that is relevant to employers. The group will help to provide key insight into topical issues and will be blogging their thoughts on Personnel Today’s Election 2010 Live Blog. Together, they represent the HR vote.
But capping enhanced pay at two weeks for dads could cause problems within the
workforce if, for example, the employer paid enhanced maternity pay for many months, according to Clair Dallamore, senior HR adviser at Priory Thornford Park hospital.
“If we pay enhanced pay for 100% of the female employee’s absence, could we not also be expected to offer the same to male employees?” she said.
A recent Equalities and Human Rights Commission survey, based on 4,500 parents, found 42% disagreed that childcare was the mother’s primary responsibility.
Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said the proposal for a fathers’ month would help popularise the role fathers should play in looking after children, but conceded take-up of paternity leave was notoriously low.
He added: “As more fathers take on childcare responsibilities to allow mothers to pursue their careers, more men are likely to want to take paternity leave.”