Paternity leave: what dads want

Dads want more better paid paternity leave and splitting leave according to family circumstances is proving popular, according to a survey by Zurich UK.


Jonathan Davis is the data science lead at insurance firm Zurich. He took two weeks off work when his daughter was born in February and will take 14 weeks off when she is nine months old in November when his wife returns to work.

Splitting his leave up has meant he has been able to tailor it to work best for his family. He has also compressed his working hours to four days which gives him time to take his son swimming and spend quality time together.

Jonathan [pictured above] is one of the dads at Zurich who are benefiting from splitting their paternity leave, a policy the Government implemented in April through The Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, but which Zurich has had since 2019.

In a poll of dads by the company ahead of Father’s Day, almost half of dads who split their paternity leave time did so to support their partner as the baby grew more active, while 36% did so to bond with the baby at both stages and 24% to support the mother’s return to work. Zurich offers 80 days’ paternity leave and says splitting the leave into two parts was the most popular method of taking leave for one third of Zurich dads in 2023.

Zurich’s poll finds that generally half of new dads take just two weeks off with their newborns. Of those who didn’t take any time at all, seven out of 10 said they simply couldn’t afford it.  Three quarters of dads say they’d like to take up to 12 weeks off work at this time.

The survey found that a third of dads take annual leave to spend extra time bonding with their newborn and one in 10 have resorted to taking unpaid time off. At Zurich, two thirds of new dads in the UK took their full 80 days paternity leave in 2023. It says nearly 10% more dads have taken paternity leave compared to mums taking maternity leave since 2019 when its new family friendly policies came in. They include an equalised approach to company-enhanced maternity, adoption, surrogacy and paternity leave as well as additional paid leave for premature births. The company also introduced a new bereavement and compassionate leave policy as well as offering paid leave to staff who undergo IVF or suffer a miscarriage.

In the poll, 43% of dads generally say they look for paid paternity leave when searching for a new role, above bonus (42%), private healthcare (29%) and salary (27%).

Steve Collinson, Chief HR Officer for Zurich UK, said: “I’m delighted to see more of our dads taking advantage of our enhanced paternity leave package. It’s important that we level the playing field by offering an equal parental leave package. This means our dads can share special time with their newborns and split the paternity leave as they need it.

“We’re able to retain our talent as we give parents the time to bond with their family, without rushing them back into work or expecting them to take time from their annual leave. It’s clear to see how important balancing shared parental responsibilities are, as paid paternity leave rates so highly when considering a company’s benefits package.”

Dr Jeremy Davies, Deputy CEO of the Fatherhood Institute said the current statutory offer on paternity leave – two weeks at the statutory rate of £184.03 a week – is one of the least generous in the developed world, and a fifth of dads aren’t even eligible, because they’re self-employed or haven’t worked for their employer for long enough.

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