Will Labour’s plans to double paternity leave and pay be a vote winner?
Fathers and partners are currently able to take up to two weeks’ paid paternity leave at the time of birth or adoption. However, it has been estimated that almost half of those entitled don’t take up this right. The reason put forward in the vast majority of cases is pay.
The statutory rate of ordinary paternity pay currently stands at £138.18 per week, or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings if this is less. Labour has said that if they win the May election this sum will almost double to £260 per week. Is this enough to persuade more to take up paternity leave?
According to the Office of National Statistics, the median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees was £518 last April. So, on average, every week that the employee takes statutory paternity leave they will give up approximately half their wages. This really begs the question can a family afford that for 2 weeks never mind 4 weeks.
The introduction of greater paternity rights may not make much difference given the imminent introduction of shared parental leave. It is only 8 weeks away and some employers may even now be receiving notices from employees informing them that they want to take up the new right.
The flexibility that shared parental leave introduces means that working parents can decide who will be the parent to take time off and who will remain in work. It could be the first step to changing the stereotypical view of the ‘mum at home/father at work’ that is still so prevalent in society. However, the rates of pay are the same as those currently available for ordinary paternity leave, which might suggest to some that childcare responsibility will still come to down to finance, with the parent who earns the least more likely to be the carer at home.