paternityA study by the TUC has found that of the 285,000 men who could have taken paternity leave in 2011/12, only 1,650 elected to do so.

According to the research, new fathers are not taking up extra paternity leave to look after their children because of the low pay they would receive.

The system, which allows men to take up to 26 weeks additional paternity leave and receive additional statutory paternity pay (£136-a-week), was only introduced in April 2011 and the TUC figures are based on its first year.

Commenting on the figures, TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said:

“A good gift for fathers this Sunday would be for ministers to increase statutory paternity pay rates and for employers to top it up for longer, so that new dads can spend more time with their children.

“Poor levels of financial support are preventing new dads from taking extra time off and are particularly affecting low-paid fathers who simply cannot afford to take leave.

“Extending paternity pay from two to six weeks and paying a better statutory rate would make a massive difference, as has been shown in other countries.”

The TUC said that in contrast, the majority of fathers do choose to take the first two weeks of paternity leave. Its research revealed that nine out of ten fathers take the two weeks, however the difference is that although the statutory rate is the same, many employers typically choose to top this up to full pay throughout that short period of leave.

A Business Department spokesman said:

“The current system for parental leave is old-fashioned and too rigid. This is why we are introducing a system of shared parental leave from April 2015 so that fathers can take more leave if they want to in the early days of a child’s life.

“We want to challenge the myth that it is the mother’s role to stay at home and care for children.”