A new study has revealed that new fathers in Scotland feel too embarrassed and even worried to use the paternity rights that are on offer to them when their partner gives birth to a child.
Academics working at the University of Edinburgh have reported that 78% of new fathers in Scotland take some leave after the birth of a child, with only 18% taking more than two weeks.
The researchers also found that those fathers who are earning low incomes are less likely still to take any meaningful time off. This, they said, is due to men being scared that taking time off will have a detrimental effect on finances for the family.
The lead researcher on the report, Alison Koslowski, said that those in the bottom income quintile are the worst affected, with only 43% of fathers taking any time off following the birth of a child.
“The first thing to note is that not all working fathers will be eligible to paternity leave in the first place. These non-eligible fathers are more likely to be those in precarious employment. They will not have any legal right to take paternity leave. Neither are self-employed fathers supported by the government with paternity leave. If you are eligible, an employer following statutory legislation will pay not more than £145.18 per week, which is much less than most fathers’ weekly take home pay.”
Koslowski added that this results in many new fathers taking this time as paid annual leave. Paid annual leave, she stated, means that fathers will receive more money for any time off they take, but they are not taking advantage of the time off they are entitled to spend with their child.
The political conversation
In April, an SNP MSP initiated a campaign petitioning Westminster to increase the entitlement for new fathers from two weeks off work to four. On top of this, he encouraged businesses to offer enhanced leave to their employees voluntarily.
Shared Parental Leave legislation was pushed by the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in 2015 but has yet to be widely taken up. The scheme allows parents to share 50 weeks off work between them, with 37 weeks of statutory pay.
It took until 2003 for the UK to introduce paid paternity leave in the UK.
Professor Koslowski says that in order to make things fairer for all fathers, there needs to be new legislation introduced. Koslowski said that those in precarious work are left behind, and added that not everyone has the luxury of choosing to work for a company which is family friendly.
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