'It isn’t a holiday – it is crucial bonding time' - 70% of dads can't afford to take two weeks paternity leave, according to new research

The research also found that only 14 per cent of fathers were ready to return to work mentally after taking their paternity leave

Father holding his newborn baby and kissing his head
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Seven out of 10 fathers only only used part of their paternity leave because they couldn't afford to stay off work any longer, according to new research.

While maternity pay and maternity leave works differently to the options available for fathers, both parents are entitled to take time out of work to bond with their new baby and get to grips with what the first weeks of a newborn's life are like. But despite this entitlement, new data from charity Pregnant Then Screwed, has found that dad's are struggling to take the time they need to spend crucial time with their newborn.

The survey into the uptake of paternity leave and the barriers faced by dads wanting to take their full entitlement found that three in five (63.7 per cent) fathers took two weeks or less paternity leave following the birth of their most recent child. Only 29 per cent of fathers had access to enhanced paternity pay as an employee benefit through their place of work, dropping to around 20 per cent for those in households with an income of less than £60,000 a year. Statutory paternity pay is currently paid at a rate of £184.03 per week, or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

But while some fathers had access to enhanced paternity leave, roughly half (48.3 per cent) were still only able to take two weeks or less paternity leave.

Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, comments, “Paternity leave isn’t a break from work, it isn’t a holiday – it is crucial bonding time. We know that paternity leave has huge benefits for the whole family: children do better in the education system, and there is research to suggest they have better physical health. Paternity leave reduces the divorce rate – couples are more likely to stay together. It has benefits for the physical and mental health of mothers, and we know that many dads are desperate to spend more time with their children.

"When fathers and partners take paternity leave, it supports the mother’s return to the labour market. We need a parental leave system which recognises and supports the crucial role dads play in families.”

For those fathers who took two weeks or less paternity leave, only a third (32.3 per cent) felt that they were physically ready to return to work when they did, with only 14 per cent ready to return mentally, and just over one in 10 (12.8 per cent) ready to return emotionally.

While there have been recent changes to the law around paternity leave, there is strong argument that the changes are not enough. Under the Paternity Leave Amendment Regulations 2024, fathers of children born or adopted after 6 April 2024 will be able to split their paternity leave into two one-week blocks in the child's first year, instead of having to take one two-week block. However, campaigning groups, including Pregnant Then Screwed, say that the amendment fails to address the overall low rate of statutory paternity pay, or the overall length of paternity leave. Pregnant Then Screwed is calling for paternity leave to be extended to six weeks at 90 per cent of salary.

This new data follows research that found that 85 per cent of parents blame high childcare costs as the reason they aren't having another child, and that working mothers earned 43 per cent less than fathers in 2023, highlighting the impact the motherhood penalty still has.

Sarah Handley
Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor and is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around childcare costs, child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.