Trades Unions organisation says policy isn’t affordable as it stands meaning mums and dads can’t really share childcare
The TUC has called for a huge overhaul of shared parental leave as the policy passes its fourth birthday.
The organisation that represents trades unions thinks it should be better funded and more widely available. And they want part of the leave ring-fenced for dads.
According to University of Birmingham figures uptake for shared parental leave (SPL) was just 1% last year, around 9000 dads.
The TUC says another half a million fathers could benefit if the scheme was extended to those who are self-employed and to people on zero hours contracts or doing agency work.
They’ve also called for paternity leave to be extended and more generously paid to match at least national minimum wage rates. It’s widely reported that one of the main reasons many men don’t take shared parental leave is because it would hit them harder in the pocket. For a man to use SPL his partner has to give up some of her leave. Inevitably the mother is likely to need time out of the workplace in the early days after birth which leaves men looking to take time off forced to use up the period of leave at the end of the statutory allowance which is only paid at £145.18 per week.
The TUC has also calls for more leave specifically for men so that women no longer have to give up their leave in order for a man to spend more time with his baby. The Women and Equalities Committee of MPs at Westminster has proposed increasing statutory paternity leave to 12 weeks.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said, “Shared parental leave needs overhauling. It’s not an affordable option for most working families.
“Without better rights to well-paid leave, many new parents will continue to miss out on spending time with their children. And mums will continue to take on the lion-share of caring responsibilities.
“If ministers are serious about getting men more involved after their child is born they should give all dads longer, better-paid paternity leave.
“Dads need leave they can take in their own right. It shouldn’t rely on mums giving up some of their maternity leave.”
The government is due to carry out a review of the policy this year. Last week Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem who piloted shared parental leave into law when she was a business minister in the coalition government, published a new bill that would extend the policy to self-employed couples. Her proposed legislation also makes paid paternity leave a day one right meaning men would be eligible from the moment they started a new job. Currently men must clock up six months in a job before they can access paternity rights in the workplace.