New fathers not taking paternity leave

Only
one in five working fathers has taken up the right to paid paternity leave –
one of Labour’s key family-friendly employment policies.

The
estimate by the Inland Revenue is a fraction of the Government’s initial
forecast when, in April 2003, new fathers won the right to two weeks’ paid
leave for the first time.

The
Department of Trade and Industry had estimated earlier that 80 per cent of the
400,000 workers who became fathers every year would take paternity leave – a
total of more than 300,000 men. But figures for the first year suggest that
only about 79,000 have done so.

Malcolm
Bruce, the Liberal Democrats’ trade and industry spokesperson – whose
parliamentary question unearthed the figures – warned that the right to paid
paternity leave could "remain an empty victory for fathers".

TUC
general secretary Brendan Barber said that the pressure to put in the hours at
work prevents many men from taking the leave they would like when their
children are born.

It
suggested that the low rate of paternity pay – a maximum of £102 a week – is
also hampering take-up.

By Mike Berry

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