PARENTS

Paternity Leave: Dads, Could You Take Four Weeks Off Work On Minimum Pay?

14/08/2014 17:02 | Updated 20 May 2015

Paternity leave and pay: Should it be doubled?

What most new dads want is to spend time with their children – but almost half don't even take the two weeks paternity leave on offer to them.

The solution? Double the length of paternity leave and double the pay – that's the view of think tank IPPR.

Yes, finally someone has realised that it's not enough just to give fathers the option to take more time off to spend with their young children; you actually need to pay them so they can afford to do so.

The IPPR says dads should automatically qualify for four weeks' leave after the birth of their child – and should be paid at the minimum wage for those weeks.

Obviously the minimum wage isn't a huge amount of money, but it's a start.

This would cost the Government – and the taxpayer – quite a lot of money. It's estimated it would cost £150m in 2015-16.

But the think tank says it would encourage more fathers to take more time off. Many don't take any paternity leave as they're only entitled to the statutory £138.18 per week. Which, I think we can all agree, is a pretty pathetic amount.

Money isn't everything though – there's also the daft culture in many of our workplaces, which insists that unless we're working 50 hour weeks and grinding ourselves into the ground, we're not fully committed to the company.

Then there's the real issue faced by small businesses who struggle to cope when one person is on holiday, let alone when an employee wants to take a month of paternity leave.

Mark, a father of two from Sussex, says: "Four weeks would be very welcome, and would be hugely beneficial to most families.

"However, paid at minimum wage, it would be a major barrier to most families and unworkable for those without savings.

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People who earn near minimum wage would find any income drop very difficult, while people on £20k+ would find such a drop for a month a big shock.

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"For me, I'd still have wanted to take it and would have tried to budget in advance for a considerably reduced income for a month. I wanted to be there in the first few weeks, getting to know my daughters and helping my wife in what can be a very demanding time.

"However, the 'work' culture is definitely real. If you take a lot of time off, it can affect your career. It would certainly have upset most of the employers I've worked for to take four weeks. Most can cope with people taking two weeks off at a time, but four can become problematic, especially for smaller firms."

Duncan, a father of two from Peterborough, says the money being offered is still not enough to make four weeks' leave affordable for many families.

"As if people can afford to lose a big chunk of their wages for four weeks," he says.

"Even getting paid minimum wage isn't much help if you earn more than that. Unless they're on minimum wage, in which case you'd be stupid not to take it.

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It would have been great to have four weeks, but when you've probably already got less money coming in as the mum is on maternity leave, I can't see anyone being able to afford to take it.

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The hot potato of paternity leave has been thrown from hand to hand by various governments, but nobody has yet come up with a satisfactory solution.

From April next year both parents will be able to share the 52 weeks of leave which has only been available as 'maternity leave'. But all that means is that parents can take it in turns to earn £138.18 per week.

However, any steps in the right direction have to be applauded. Sure, giving fathers the option of four weeks off at minimum wage might not be realistic for many – but it might make some dads more likely to take one, two or three weeks instead of none. Baby steps, baby steps.

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