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TUC calls for overhaul of shared parental leave

Written by: Danielle Levy
Only 1% of those eligible to take shared parental leave opted to do so last year, which has prompted the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to call for an overhaul.

Last year, only 9,200 new parents took advantage of shared parental leave – equating to only 1% of those eligible to do so.

The TUC believes uptake has been low because the scheme is low paid, offering parents only £145.18 per week which makes it unaffordable for many fathers.

In addition, large numbers of fathers who work for agencies or on on zero-hours contracts are not eligible for shared parental leave, while men and women who are self-employed don’t get any shared leave whatsoever.

Another challenge associated with shared parental leave in its current form is that it is only available when the mum gives up part of her maternity leave.

The TUC believes that dads and second parents should have their own special leave available from day one in their jobs, including those who are self-employed, agency workers or on zero-hours contracts.

The TUC adds that statutory paternity pay and shared parental pay should be increased to at least minimum wage levels.

According to their estimates, increasing the statutory paternity leave period (which totals two weeks), as well as extending leave to all fathers, including those who are self-employed, agency workers or on zero-hours contracts, could benefit close to 500,000 dads.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady commented: “Shared parental leave needs overhauling. It’s not an affordable option for most working families.”

If the status quo is maintained he says 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,” he added.

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