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Fathers need encouragement to take additional paternity leave

Additional paternity leave (APL) was introduced in 2010 to enable fathers to take more time off work, allowing parents to have six months' leave each during their baby's first year.

The move reflected the growing trend for fathers to be more involved with childcare and allowed parents to share leave.

But 18 months after it came into effect, many fathers are still failing to take any paternity leave because they can't afford to. Most felt that employers could do more to help them with parenting responsibilities.

APL gives fathers - or partners sharing the responsibility for bringing up a child with the mother - 26 weeks of additional paternity leave on top of the two weeks of ordinary paternity leave. It can only be taken 20 or more weeks after the child's birth (or placement for adoption) and once the mother has returned to work within her maternity leave period.

It was intended for APL to rectify the disparity of leave entitlements between fathers and mothers. Some European countries already give equal rights or substantially greater leave benefits to fathers.

Recent research has found that while half of fathers (49 per cent) do the majority or an equal share of the childcare, two thirds of them (67 per cent) think that their employers are not family friendly enough. Nine out of ten fathers (87 per cent) want their employer to do more to help with their parenting responsibilities.

A report by the Department for Work and Pensions stated that 40 per cent of new fathers failed to take paternity leave because they couldn't afford to. Statutory paternity pay is £135.45 per week or 90 per cent of an employee's average weekly earnings if that is less.

Organisations can mark themselves out as innovative family-friendly places by offering enhanced paternity benefits. Such moves are likely to boost employee engagement and improve satisfaction with work-life balance.

There is also a question of fairness. Few organisations offer mothers and fathers the same levels of enhanced pay during leave. Some 65 per cent of employers provide only statutory paternity pay during APL, while 65 per cent of the same employers offer enhanced maternity pay over the equivalent period. Analysts have commented that this inequality risks disengagement, loss of performance and even a perception of discrimination against the male workforce.

Acas provides detailed advice on Paternity leave and pay and runs practical training courses on Maternity, paternity and adoption, giving a comprehensive overview of everything to do with family-related policies.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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