By Daniel Hunter

The growth in the number of men taking paternity leave has ground to a halt as families decide they can’t sacrifice the lost income from taking time off work, says EMW, the commercial law firm.

202,000 men took Statutory Paternity Leave in the last year, up only 1% from the 200,000 men who took Paternity Leave in 2010/11. This is a sharp decline in the 11% per year growth over the previous five years in the number of men taking paternity pay (see graph below).

EMW says that the financial pressures on households, created by the economy, mean that men are becoming more reluctant to give up much needed income in order to take paternity leave.

Statutory paternity pay has been increasing at a far lower rate than the RPI — for example its most recent annual increase was just under 1%, up from £135.45 to £136.78 per week from 7 April 2013.

The average weekly pay for a full-time worker in the UK is £512.77.

“Household incomes are under a lot of pressure at the moment. Unless the economy improves or the paternity pay increases we may not see a further substantial rise in the number of men taking paternity pay," Jon Taylor, Principal at EMW, commented.

“The reality is that many households can’t afford more paternity leave and many SMEs could not afford the cost of additional paternity leave being passed on to them.”

Fathers are currently entitled to two weeks of leave from work for the birth of a child.

EMW adds that there is a huge and growing gap between the number of men taking paternity leave and the number of women taking maternity leave. 625,000 women took maternity leave in 2011/12, with average pay for the period reaching £3,475.60 — meaning there may be 400,000 men who are not taking paternity leave.

“A definite cultural shift has taken place, with the idea of paternity leave becoming accepted and even embraced by employers," Jon Taylor, Principal at EMW, commented.

“However, over the last couple of years, the number of men taking paternity leave has been levelling off, suggesting that paternity leave, in its current form, is reaching almost everyone it can.

“The gap between the number of women taking time off for the birth of a child and the number of men doing so is actually widening. It seems that a huge number of men that could take paternity leave are choosing not to.

“If the Government would like to see a higher proportion of new fathers taking paternity leave, it could consider raising the level of paternity pay.

“The current level of paternity pay on offer is significantly lower than the minimum wage, and a lot of men are simply unable to absorb the financial hit of losing a significant percentage of their salary for two weeks, especially when they are dealing with the costs associated with having a newborn baby.”

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