Four in 10 dads can’t afford shared parental leave

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Five years after its introduction, the number of fathers claiming shared parental leave has increased by over two thirds since 2015/16, but four in 10 dads still cannot afford to share leave with their partner.

This is according to data obtained by conferencing platform PowWowNow, which said there was an alarming need for the shared parental leave system to be overhauled to ensure parents are not financially penalised for splitting childcare responsibilities more fairly.

Figures it obtained from HM Revenue & Customs revealed that only 3.8% of eligible couples took up shared parental leave in 2018/19 compared with the 2.2% seen in 2015/16, when the right was introduced. Using data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, it is assumed that 285,000 couples would be eligible for SPL.

Despite the low uptake, more men with female partners are taking an interest in sharing leave; a third of dads told PowWowNow they would like to be able to share more leave, while 39% said they would take SPL in the future if they were able. However, a quarter say they would not want to take any leave entitlement away from their partner.

Twenty-three per cent of men would be willing to change jobs or take a pay cut if it meant they could spend more time with their family.

However, many men still feel they are financially unable to take SPL, as many earn more than their female partner and do not feel they could make the financial sacrifice. Thirty per cent of fathers experienced a situation in which the female caregiver of their child had parental pay topped up while they did not.

Last year, the Court of Appeal ruled that employers can enhance maternity pay while paying parents who took SPL statutory shared parental pay only.

Andrew Johnson, MD of PowWowNow, said: “Businesses and the government must ensure these shifts in cultural perceptions of gender roles in parenting are reflected in changes to the workplace and in parental leave policies.

“Workplaces must introduce family-friendly policies and flexible working practices for new fathers. Fathers who are better able to balance work and life commitments will be happier and more productive members of the office.

“Meanwhile, empowering fathers to take a more active role in child-raising can help tackle gender disparity in the workplace and see us move towards a more equal society.”

PowWowNow surveyed 1,000 UK fathers.

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