Fathers' Day cards (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
The perfect gift for Fathers’ Day? Proper paid paternity leave
Forget socks, slippers or the latest gadget. This Sunday, the government should give fathers the perfect Fathers’ Day gift and help them spend time more with their families – by making sure all fathers can access well-paid paternity leave.
One in four working fathers aren’t entitled to take paid paternity leave when their child is born. There are two reasons for this:
- They haven’t been in their job long enough to qualify. There is currently a six-month qualifying period for paternity leave. That means that nearly 45,000 fathers with a child under one are missing out.
- They aren’t categorised as “employees”. Working fathers who are self-employed, work on a zero-hours contract or do agency work aren’t entitled to paternity leave. Employment rights which promote better work life balance are typically only available to people who work in more secure employment.
There is a great irony here. Proponents of the flexible labour market dress it up as an opportunity for workers to better balance their working life and family, but workers in insecure employment are not entitled to the employment rights which would give them greater flexibility and help them to spend time with their families.
We don’t think that this is right. It is important that fathers can support the mother of their new-born child and spend time together as a family, regardless of how long they have worked for an employer or what sort of contract they work under.
Giving fathers access to longer, better paid paternity leave will also help mothers get back into the workplace as the caring responsibilities can be more evenly shared.
It’s not good enough to hope for the best and rely on workplace culture to change. Legislative change is needed. The TUC wants the government to take some practical actions on this:
- All fathers should be given a right to paternity leave from day one in their jobs, no matter what type of contract they have, or how many hours they work.
- Statutory paternity pay rates should be increased to at least the level of the National Living Wage rates. The current weekly statutory rate for paternity pay is less than half what someone, working a full-time week, on the National Living Wage rate would earn. This means that even for fathers who qualify for paternity leave, there’s less incentive to take it, as the pay is so low.
- Extend the existing maternity allowance scheme (which can be paid if you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay) to cover all parents, so that low paid and self-employed fathers will also benefit from a period of paid leave after their child’s birth.
- Finally, we would like to see well-paid parental leave extended, and fathers given at least a month of non-transferable period of leave. Similar changes were made in Germany ten years ago. This led to an increase in the number of fathers taking parental leave from 3.5% to 32%.
Improved employment rights would be an effective lever for change in UK workplaces.
And it’d give fathers something they deserve, more than just a pair of Fathers’ Day socks.