Today’s dads are taking less paternity leave, according to HM Revenue And Customs. For the first time in five years, the number of dads choosing to take paternity leave has dropped. Between March 2017 and March 2018, just 213,500 new dads took time off work following the birth of their baby, a drop of 3.3% compared to the previous 12 months.
This news may not be much of a surprise for some. The Centre for Economics and Business Research states that the average cost of raising a child is £230,000. Therefore, with statutory paternity pay offering just £145.18 per week, many dads simply can’t afford to take the time off work. But what other reasons are stopping dads from taking a break from work?
Reinforcing traditional roles
Commercial law firm, EMW state that females traditionally take charge of childcare arrangements. As a result, it’s becoming more normal for men not to take paternity leave. However, that’s not to say that fathers don’t want to take a greater role in their child’s care. More often than not, the financial complications which come with paternity or shared parental leave, along with an extended absence, can cause greater implications.
One study found that 70% of fathers feel that there is a social stigma attached to extended paternity leave. While, one quarter of males stated taking paternity leave would damage their future career prospects. This way of thinking clearly comes from experience rather than expectation. It also shows a sharp contrast in how the government and individuals perceive a father’s role.
Dads are unaware that Statutory Paternity Leave exists
It was only in 2003 that SPL was introduced by the UK government. Since then dads have been permitted to take two weeks leave. A further 26 weeks may be taken should the mother opt to cease maternity leave and transfer her leave to her partner. As this right was introduced a mere 15 years ago, the individuals which today’s expectant couples – namely their parents – rely on wholeheartedly for pregnancy related advice will be unaware of this right. According to the Government, 50% of the population are unaware of SPL. A clear sign that the government and employers need to promote this right more effectively.
Gender wage gap
According to the BBC, 78% of companies pay their male workers more than their female ones. As a result, new dads simply can’t afford to lose their salary and stay at home with their newborn. If employers paid their female workers fairly then parents-to-be would have more savings in their baby fund. As a result, new families wouldn’t be battling to survive on their maternity pay and would have enough set to one side so that dads could comfortably take a few weeks off.
Due to financial concern, a lack of awareness and social roles, fewer dads are taking paternity leave. But as the first few weeks are critical for building the parent/child bond, more should be done to encourage fathers to take time away from work following the birth of their child.
Are you a dad debating whether to take paternity leave? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.