23 per cent of new fathers not entitled to paternity pay, TUC finds

Calls to introduce paternity allowance for those not entitled to statutory pay.

In the UK, between April 2017 and March 2018 there were nearly 620,000 working fathers. Of this total, the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has revealed that 23 per cent of new fathers failed to qualify for statutory paternity pay.

Eligible employees can take two weeks’ statutory paternity leave to look after a new born or adopted child if they are either the father, the spouse or partner of the mother, the adopter or the intended parent in a surrogacy arrangement. Further eligibility requirements include being employed as an employee for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the due date, and have provided their employer with the correct notice. In order to become entitled to statutory paternity pay, currently set at £148.68 per week, the employee must also have earned at least the lower earnings limit of £118 per week.

The TUC believes that over 140,000 new fathers are not qualifying for statutory paternity pay because they are either self-employed or have not been employed for the required 26 weeks. It is also believed that the rate of statutory pay is too low which is preventing fathers taking this time off work for financial reasons. Although shared parental leave may also be available to some employees, the TUC estimates that less than 8 per cent of fathers are using this system so remain reliant on paternity pay.

Calling for reform to help working fathers, the TUC suggests the government should amend current rights to provide statutory paternity and shared parental pay from day one of employment. They are also recommending an increase in the level of paternity pay so this meets living wage levels, as well as creating a paternity allowance for fathers which would work in the same manner as maternity allowance for non-eligible or self-employed mothers.

Organisations are required to follow the statutory rules relating to paternity leave and pay when an employee is seeking time off work in these circumstances, although they may decide to offer an enhanced scheme. Such a scheme could provide greater paternity pay, extended leave or offer time off work to those who do not meet the current eligibility requirements. Organisations can also consider whether there is internal awareness and understanding of shared parental leave amongst their employees, to ensure employees feel supported in taking this leave.