- Countries with more than six weeks of paid paternity leave have a 4% smaller gender wage gap and 3.7% smaller labour force participation gap
- Closing gender employment gaps in all UK authorities would increase economic output by £23 billion.
- Just 18% of Brits think 2 weeks paternity leave or less is enough
- One in five (22%) dads and partners that are eligible for paternity leave take no leave at all
A new report from The Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP), Pregnant Then Screwed and Women in Data® on the societal and economic impact of paternity leave has launched today. The research finds that increasing paid paternity leave to six weeks could reduce the gender pay gap and help to equalise men and women’s participation in the labour market. The economic case for tackling gender inequality is strong, with analysis suggesting that closing gender employment gaps could increase economic output by £23 billion.
The report, Leave in the lurch: Paternity leave, gender equality and the UK economy, explores the economic and health impacts of extending the statutory entitlement to paternity leave and pay, including its impacts on gender equality in the labour market.
The UK has the least generous paternity leave entitlement in Europe. Currently, the statutory entitlement to paternity leave is two weeks and the weekly rate for paternity pay is £172 a week, which is 44% of the national living wage. Shockingly, new survey data reveals that for 1 in 5 (20%) dads, no parental leave options were available to them following the birth or adoption of their child. Of those that were entitled to some leave, but returned to work early, 43% cited financial hardship as the reason for not taking their full entitlement. 63% of all recent fathers said they did not feel mentally ready to return to work when they did.
The research found that fewer than one in five (18%) prospective parents say they or their partner could afford to take six weeks of paternity leave at the current statutory rate of pay. By contrast, 57% of prospective parents said they or their partner could afford to take six weeks of paternity leave if it was paid at 90% of their income, as statutory maternity pay is for women.
CPP and Pregnant then Screwed are calling on the government to increase the length of non-transferable paternity leave to a minimum of six weeks and to pay it at 90% of income in line with current statutory maternity pay, alongside enhancing existing maternity rights to reduce financial hardship, the gender employment gap, and the gender pay gap. Paternity leave should be available to all working dads and partners.
New CPP analysis of OECD data finds that countries with more than six weeks of paid paternity leave have a 4 percentage point smaller gender wage gap and 3.7 percentage point smaller labour force participation gap than countries that have less than six weeks. Closing the gender employment gap in all UK local authorities would increase economic output by £23bn (approximately 1% of GDP).
Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, comments, “We finally have evidence that boosting paternity leave will reduce the gender pay gap, improve the health of both parents and it will benefit the economy. Paternity leave is not a luxury but a necessity.’’
When fathers and partners take paternity leave, it supports the mother's return to the labour market. In fact, data from the YouGov survey has found that 65% of mothers with children under the age of 12 thought that increasing paid paternity leave would have a positive impact on mothers’ readiness to return to work.
As it stands, the situation in the UK is perpetuating mental health problems. Almost a third (29%) of parents surveyed said either they or their partner had experienced a new mental health issue in the two years following the birth of their most recent child.. 45% of these parents received no treatment or support. A huge 83% of mothers with children under 12 thought that increasing paid paternity leave would have a positive impact on mothers’ mental health. If mental health issues continue to affect parents when they return to work, this will also likely have productivity impacts, as improving mental health has been consistently associated with higher productivity.
Rosie Fogden, Head of Research & Analysis at CPP said:
"While long-held societal norms about gendered parenting roles are shifting, the UK’s parental leave system has not kept pace. As our findings show, it is still very difficult for many fathers and second parents to be able to afford to take leave when their children are born, and this has serious consequences for both parents’ mental health. If the UK wants to reduce the gender pay gap and stem the growing demand for mental health services, government policy must send a strong signal about the importance of both parents’ role in providing childcare from the very beginning of a child’s life. Extending paid paternity leave could also help us to close the gender pay gap, which in turn could boost the economy.”
The length of leave taken by parents is closely tied to statutory entitlement, regardless of income. Changing this entitlement could therefore have a strong influence on behaviour, and this new research has shown there is broad public support for increasing paternity entitlement. Just 18% of Brits felt that two weeks of paternity leave is long enough, and a majority (66%) would support an increase beyond the current statutory provision of two weeks.
Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed comments “If our next Government wants to set out a positive vision for the future, then thriving families must be central to their campaign. We have the worst paternity benefit in Europe which is negatively impacting children, gender equality and the economy. We are calling on the government to increase the length of non-transferrable paternity leave to a minimum of six weeks at 90% of income, in line with current statutory maternity pay. It is clear from our research that this is what voters want and it is about time we kept pace with other forward thinking nations.’’