HR · 4 September 2018

Why is paternity leave uptake falling?

Paternity uptake is failing

Despite the government’s continued encouragement for working men to consider taking more time off in relation to their family responsibilities, the fall in uptake levels clearly shows that men do not view the opportunity to take leave as a viable one.

The reasons for not taking leave will be personal to every individual, but it may be possible to identify certain themes and trends amongst those reasons.

One reason may lie with the employer themselves. Small business owners without a dedicated HR resource may simply not be aware of an employee’s entitlement and therefore fail to alert an employee to the fact that they may have a right to take time off.

Similarly, the employee themselves may not have sufficient information to hand on their rights, and so don’t ask for time off.

Another potential blocker to taking paternity leave falls in its own qualifying criteria, one of which requires the individual to be an employee.

Employment status dictates the availability of employment rights to an individual and those whose working relationship means that they are not classed, for employment law purposes, as an ‘employee’ do not have as many employment rights as those who are.

Paternity leave is one such right that is exclusive to employees. The rise in self-employed work, particularly highlighted in the increased number of workers in the so-called gig economy, means an increase in the number of men who are simply not entitled to take paternity leave.

Recent employment tribunal challenges to self-employed status in the gig economy would not appear to offer any leeway in this area; individuals have generally been held to be workers rather than employees, and therefore still not entitled to paternity leave.

Unlike maternity leave, one of the conditions of taking paternity leave is that the employee has the requisite qualifying service.

Those who have been with their employer for fewer than 26 weeks counted from the 15th week before the baby is due are not entitled to take paternity leave; they are simply blocked from the statutory system.

An increase in job leavers and new starters would certainly contribute to the numbers of men who simply do not qualify and therefore cannot take paternity leave.

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Kate Palmer CIPD is the head of advisory at law firm Peninsula and is a member of its senior leadership team. She joined in 2009 having held a senior HR manager's role in another large company. With a specialist background in facilities management in the NHS, Kate offers a wealth of employment law experience. She's an expert negotiator - one notable case was with the NHS's trade unions over terms and conditions in the Agenda for Change pay system.