14 May 2012 | 11:10 am | 2 min. read
But still unused by vast majority of male employees Businesses say further increases in paternity rights may be damaging The number of men taking paternity leave in the UK has jumped by 14% over the past year says Pinsent Masons, the international law firm.
Pinsent Masons says that the number of employees claiming paternity pay rose from 170,000 in 2008/09 to 194,000 in the year to March 2010, but is still a very small fraction of those entitled to statutory paternity leave.
While there has been a rapid increase in the number of men taking Statutory Paternity Leave, there is still a huge gap between the number of men and women taking time off following the birth of a child.
Pinsent Masons explains that 602,000 women received Statutory Maternity Pay in the year to March 2010, three times the number of men receiving paternity pay in the same year.
Pinsent Masons' Legal Director, Katie Douglas commented: These figures show that there has been a significant shift in attitudes towards paternity leave, but we are still some way from parity.”
"Despite the Government’s determination to encourage fathers to take paternity leave, many men still do not exercise their right. They may baulk at the prospect because they fear that their doing so is still frowned upon by employers. The basic statutory rate offered by many employers is also considerably lower than the average wage which might discourage many men from taking their full entitlement.”
The amount paid out in Statutory Paternity Pay also increased by 23% to £43million in the year to March 2010 from £35million the year before, which may suggest that more men are taking the full period of paternity leave (two weeks) than ever before.
In April 2011, the Government extended Statutory Paternity leave, allowing men to split the leave entitlement with their partner if she returns to work without taking her full entitlement to maternity leave. Men can now claim up to 26 additional weeks of Additional Paternity Leave when their partner has returned to work without exhausting her maternity leave.
Pinsent Masons says that although employers can and do pay above these statutory amounts, many businesses have been critical of the Government’s plans to extend paternity leave any further.
Katie Douglas explains: “Some business leaders have expressed concerns that any further extension to paternity leave could place increasing burdens on businesses– both in terms of the additional administration involved but also the difficulty of providing suitable cover for the employee taking leave.”
“A lot of smaller businesses are concerned that an increase in paternity rights would further damage their productivity in what is a very weak economy.”
“David Cameron took his entitlement to two weeks' paternity leave and pay as a very public sign that the Government wants to encourage other men to do the same. We anticipate that this trend is likely to continue as both employers and employees become more comfortable with the concept of men taking paternity leave.”
“With the ability of men now to take additional paternity leave, it will be interesting to see if more men take up their full entitlement.”
Pinsent Masons explains that Statutory Paternity Leave currently stands at two weeks, with Statutory Paternity Pay set at £135.45 per week. If earnings are less than the statutory amounts, employees will be paid at 90% of average weekly earnings.
Pinsent Masons points out that the paternity rules as they currently stand mean that:
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