Ordinary maternity leave continues for a period of up to 26 weeks, and a further 26 weeks may be taken as additional maternity leave. Statutory maternity pay is paid for six weeks at 90 per cent of normal weekly earnings, and 33 weeks at the lesser of the statutory flat rate (currently £136.78 per week, increasing to £138.18 from 6 April 2014), or the rate payable during the first six weeks.
Interestingly, quite a high proportion of respondents (48 per cent) confirmed that they currently pay enhanced ordinary maternity pay, over and above statutory maternity pay entitlements during ordinary maternity leave. Only a small percentage of employers surveyed, (18 per cent), confirmed that they offer any form of enhanced pay during the additional maternity leave period.
In contrast with the position on maternity pay, a lower percentage of employers, (only 38 per cent), offered enhanced paternity pay during the initial one to two week period of ordinary paternity leave. The majority (92 per cent) offer no enhanced pay during additional paternity leave. Clearly, this may impact the involvement of fathers in raising their children in today’s world.
Despite the limited duration of ordinary statutory paternity leave (up to two consecutive weeks) compared with maternity leave (up to 52 weeks), a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents confirmed that the vast majority of eligible employees do not take ordinary paternity leave. This may reflect the fact that statutory paternity pay is only £136.78 per week (increasing to £138.18 on 6 April 2014) (or 90 per cent of salary if lower), and that relatively few employers offer enhanced paternity pay.
“Fathers can already take some of the mother’s maternity leave, yet in my experience I have yet to receive a request for this.”
Additional paternity leave (currently up to 26 weeks) is even more limited; it must be used within a period of time starting 20 weeks after, and ending 12 months after, the baby’s date of birth, and the individual’s spouse, civil partner or partner must have returned to work from her own statutory maternity leave.
A total of 67 per cent of employers confirmed that no employees had taken additional paternity leave. This is consistent with figures issued by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, which estimates that only 2,150 people claimed additional statutory paternity pay in 2011/2012 (a drop in the ocean taking into account Office for National Statistics figures, which indicate that there were 723,913 live births in England and Wales in 2011, increasing to 729,674 in 2012).
“Male employees do not currently take advantage of paternity leave and parental leave entitlements.”
It is clear (and perhaps unsurprising considering that only 8 per cent of employers surveyed offered enhanced additional paternity pay) that take-up of additional paternity leave is very low, and suggests that, currently, many parents do not share childcare responsibilities equally.