Less than third of new fathers take paternity leave, research suggests

Olivia Petter

Less than one in three new fathers take paternity leave, a study has found.

Research suggests roughly a third (31 per cent) of eligible new fathers used paternity leave in the last year compared to 32 per cent the previous year.

Using data collected from HMRC through freedom of information requests, law firm EMW Law also found that the percentage of men taking paternity leave has fallen for four years in a row, with the percentage standing at 34 per cent in 2014/15.

The figures contrast with the rising number of women choosing to take maternity leave, which the firm's research found has risen by approximately 5 per cent in the last four years.

The government is aware of this disparity and has introduced measures, such as shared parental leave, to make it easier for new parents to balance their work and family lives.

But very few people have actually participated in the scheme, with just 1 per cent of eligible new parents doing so in 2017/18.

Jon Taylor, of EMW, explained that taking time off work after having a child has become “an unaffordable luxury” for many, particularly given the cost of childcare.

“While the problem is particularly acute among gig economy workers and the self-employed, even those who are eligible for paternity pay still face a pay cut by taking time off,” he said.

“Shared parental leave is a very well-meaning policy, but it has not yet made any significant inroads into the issue of men being unable to take paternity leave. In fact, the gap between men and women taking time off for the birth of a child is actually widening.”

He continued: “Whilst some businesses may decide not to claim the cost of paternity pay from the Government (and therefore would not show up in the figures) it is hard to say whether that would make any material difference.

“However, going on the official figures, it is worrying that the number has not moved in the last six years despite all the encouragement for men to take more paternity leave. That combined with the relatively low take up of shared parental leave calls into question whether ‘family friendly’ policies are really working.”