The UK is still decades behind other countries when it comes to rights and financial support for new dads.
In countries like Denmark, Norway and Portugal fathers can take paternity leave at 100 per cent of their normal earnings. And in countries like Sweden and Germany families are given extra money if fathers share parental leave more equally with their partner.
By contrast, statutory paternity pay in the UK is just a quarter of the median weekly wage for full-time male employees and just over half the weekly wage for a worker earning the national minimum wage for a 40-hour week.
Now it’s been found that mothers who don’t have a job (whether employed or self-employed) don’t have a right to maternity leave or pay that they can share. And the TUC is concerned that the new scheme will have a very limited impact because of the rules around eligibility and low statutory pay.
According to the government’s own projections as few as 5,700 men are expected to apply for shared parental leave over the next year.
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Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts said: “In a recent survey of Mumsnet users, eight out of ten couples said they would have liked the father to take more paternity leave, and seven out of ten said that financial considerations stopped them from doing so.
“Everyone seems to agree that dads need to be able to spend time with their children, but we don’t yet have the policies that will encourage a real cultural shift.”
The TUC estimates that shared parental leave would be open to around 200,000 more fathers each year if their rights to take leave weren’t dependent on the mother being in work and it was a day one right.
Without better rights to leave and pay, many fathers will continue to miss out on playing an active role in the first year of a child’s life.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Shared parental leave is a welcome move but just a small step towards getting dads more involved in their children’s upbringing.
“If politicians are serious about men playing a more active role after their child is born they must increase statutory paternity pay and look at introducing some father-only leave that isn’t dependant on their partner being in work.
“Employers must also work more closely with unions who often secure better paternity rights for dads.”
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