Four in ten fathers cannot afford to take shared parental leave

New research commissioned by PowWowNow claims that four in ten fathers cannot afford to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL), suggesting there is a need for policy change to ensure it does not compromise families financially for a father to be equally involved in parenting.

The study assessed the impact and uptake of SPL on fathers in the workplace. SPL was introduced in 2015 to allow parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay between them following the birth of a child and is designed to allow couples to split child-caring roles more equally.

Uptake of SPL remains low; HMRC figures obtained by PowWowNow through FOI requests suggest only 3.8 percent of eligible couples took Shared Parental Pay in 2018/19, though this was up from 2.2 percent in 2015/16. This increase in interest from fathers in parenting involvement is reflected by figures indicating the number of dads claiming Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) has increased by over two thirds (67 percent) from 2015/16 to 2018/19.

This trend reflects shifting cultural attitudes towards gender roles in parenting; a third of dads would like to be able to share more parental leave with their female partner, while four in ten (39 percent) would take SPL in the future if they were able. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) would change jobs or take a pay cut if it meant they could spend more time with their family.

Despite these cultural changes, many fathers still feel there is a lack of support from employers for men taking parental leave; 30 percent of fathers have experienced a situation in which the female caregiver of their child had parental leave topped up financially whilst they did not.

Most mothers will get an enhanced maternity package from their employer, and statutory maternity pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. This means, when taking SPL, mothers and fathers can end up receiving less financial support- a factor that is exacerbated by the existing gender pay gap which means many men are the higher earners in their household. The data claims a quarter of dads did not take SPL because they didn’t want to take leave away from their partner.