Almost half (46%) of employers support extending statutory paternity/partner leave and pay, according to CIPD research that finds employers’ parental leave policies have changed little since 2016.
A survey of 2,000 senior HR decision-makers for its Employer focus on working parents report finds that 49% of organisations only offer the statutory one to two weeks’ leave for fathers or partners. Just 3% provide three weeks’ leave, 9% offer four weeks’ leave, and a further 13% provide between five and 28 weeks.
Asked about their maternity pay policies, 33% offer only the statutory minimum. Nearly a fifth (18%) offer between four and 13 weeks of enhanced maternity pay at or near the full rate of pay, while 21% offer 26 weeks of enhanced pay followed by 13 weeks at the statutory rate or 90% of average weekly earnings.
Shared parental leave continues to see low take up. Eighty-five per cent of organisations have seen no new fathers or partners use SPL in the past two years. Five per cent have seen more than half of new fathers/partners take up SPL.
Enhanced parental leave
In 2016, 43% of organisations said that between 1% and 100% of new fathers/partners had taken up SPL.
However, employers recognise the need to increase parental leave and pay entitlements to reflect modern parenting practices and help parents to balance caring responsibilities. Nearly half think statutory paternity/partner leave and pay should be extended; 33% of whom think this should be extended to four weeks and 29% to six weeks or more.
CIPD senior policy adviser Claire McCartney said: “We last explored organisational approaches to parental leave in 2016 and since then, surprisingly, very little has changed in employer practice. Our research suggests that shared parental leave in its current form isn’t working; take-up continues to be very low, and we have seen a downward trend since 2016.
“These survey findings reinforce our policy call to extend statutory paternity/partner leave and pay, which will help balance caring responsibilities, reflect the changing nature of modern families and provide much-needed financial support to working parents. Extended paternity/partner leave can have emotional benefits for parents and children, as well as improving the gender pay gap, as it enables a more equal split of time out of work to care for children.”
The report also finds that:
- Private sector employers (38%) are more likely than voluntary (29%) and public (13%) sector employers to offer only statutory maternity leave and pay. This is more generous than in 2016 (48% of private sector employers)
- Private sector organisations (27%) are significantly more likely to oppose extending SPL than employers in the public
(13%) and voluntary sectors (18%)
- 38% of organisations encourage both women and men to use optional keeping-in-touch days during maternity, adoption, shared parental leave or additional paternity leave. A further 35% leave it entirely up to the individual and
8% say they allow it but don’t encourage it.
The authors recommend that the UK government should:
- Enhance the statutory paternity/partner provision to six weeks at or near the full rate of pay, to help deliver more balance and choice over the distribution of caring responsibilities
- Provide affordable childcare from the end of maternity/parental leave to enable parents to return to work sooner
- Make the right to request flexible working a right from day one of employment and reconsider the stipulation that employees can only make a request every 12 months.
The report says employers should not wait for government policy to change to enhance parental policies where they are able to do so.