Take-up of paternity leave will only rise if paternity pay does

Take-up of paternity leave will only rise if paternity pay does – but flexible working is on the up

British workers are adopting more flexible working practices, in many cases with the active encouragement of their employers. But if the Government genuinely wants fathers to warm to the idea of paternity leave and give practical impact to the family friendly policies they are considering for introduction in their third term in office, they are going to have to bite the bullet and offer more substantial financial support – rather than simply an entitlement to more time off. These are the key findings of research commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), and leading commercial law firm Hammonds.

The research, which covered over 1,000 UK workers, including nearly 200 fathers of children under 16, was conducted by MORI. It found that almost a quarter of employees (23%) have requested some form of flexible working. The vast majority of these (87%) have had their requests granted by their employers.

However, the survey found unwillingness amongst new fathers to take up their statutory entitlement to two weeks paternity leave paid at the current rate of £102.80 per week:

* Less than half (46%) of fathers said they would take paternity leave at the current rate of pay if they had another child;

* However, at 90% of full pay the proportion of fathers saying they would take paternity leave increases to four out of five (80%), and at full pay the figure rises to nearly nine out of ten (87%).

The supporting employee interviews revealed some fathers are not using their existing entitlement to two weeks statutory paternity leave, preferring instead to take time off as annual leave on full pay.

The current time allowed for statutory paternity leave (two weeks) is considered adequate by the majority of workers:

* Half of employees (53%) consider the current entitlement is ‘about right’;

* Six per cent think the current entitlement is ‘too much’, but a significant minority 41% think it is ‘not enough’ younger workers are more likely to fit into the latter category.

The research was published at the end of October, on the eve of Europe’s largest management conference – the CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in Harrogate.

Duncan Brown, Assistant Director General at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “We would have expected the rate of paternity pay to be one of the factors in the decision to take paternity leave. But with less than half of fathers willing to consider taking leave at the current £102.80 a week, and four out of five wanting to take up the opportunity at 90% of full pay, the implications for any further family friendly legislation are clear.

“Flexible employment policies are becoming embedded in the UK world of work. But fathers tell us they can’t afford to spend time with their newborn children at current rates of paternity pay.”

Sue Nickson, partner and head of employment law at Hammoncls, said: ‘This survey shows there is no overwhelming desire for more time off for paternity leave. But employers cannot be blamed for low levels of take-up of paternity leave, since clearly from these findings the statutory pay level is a major disincentive to take up.”

Other key findings – Flexible working:

* Four out of five UK workers (80%) say their employer offers some form of flexible working. Part time working (available to 53% of workers) and variable working hours – arriving late or leaving early – (5f%) are the most common.

* Almost half of all employees (47%) say their employers encourage flexible working – only a quarter say their employers discourage it.

* Women and workers under the age of 30 are more likely to ask for flexible forms of working – but, when requests are made, employers are equally likely to grant them for men or women.

Sue Nickson, partner and head of employment law at Hammonds, said: “Employers are far more reasonable about flexible working than some interest groups would have you believe. However, the issue of flexible working and the need to balance associated issues will continue to be on the employment agenda for some time to come.”

Copyright Institute of Management Services Dec 2004

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