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Low statutory pay blamed for poor take-up of paternity leave

While nine out of ten fathers take some time off work after the birth of a child, fewer than one in three spend longer than two weeks at home with their newborns. But a lowly 1 in 172 fathers took additional paternity leave (APL) during 2011/12, according to research from the TUC.

Its analysis of official figures found that of 285,000 fathers eligible for APL only 1,650 - 0.06 per cent - actually took it.

APL allows a father to take up to 26 weeks extra leave on top of the two weeks of ordinary paternity leave, as long as it's taken at least 20 weeks after the birth once the mother has returned to work during her maternity leave period.

The statutory weekly rate of both ordinary and additional paternity pay is £136.78. But the difference, according to the TUC, is that most employers top up the ordinary pay while very few do so with additional pay. They said that many fathers couldn't afford to go on APL.

Other research found that fathers supporting a partner and children at home worked longer hours than any other group of working men. Three in ten of these fathers worked 48 hours a week and one in ten worked more than 60 hours.

Commentators also blamed cultural pressures which may make it harder for fathers to take longer breaks from work. They cited perceptions among men that taking additional leave may have an adverse impact on their careers.

APL will be replaced by shared parental leave in 2015, which will allow parents to share childcare responsibilities more evenly. It's hoped it will help to change perceptions about men's relationship with childcare.

While the Government anticipates that between 2 and 8 per cent of fathers will take the leave, the TUC said that the pay for shared parental leave will still be a 'low statutory rate'.

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

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

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