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Lets Talk About Six: UK Paternity Leave Campaign

A campaign spearheaded by the organisation 'Pregnant Then Screwed' has gained traction and needs your support!

The 'Let's Talk About Six' campaign is the brainchild of one of our favourite advocacy organisations and charities, Pregnant Then Screwed, and we know all too well how difficult it can be for new parents with the current paternity leave entitlement in the UK - and that's if daddy (or their other parent*) can afford the hit to the pay packet, and isn't self-employed!

We want to share this campaign with you because, as parents ourselves, we strongly agree that things need to change for dads. How can we argue for gender equality when dads are still being diminished in their importance as parents, especially in those vulnerable & tender early days of new parenthood? Read on for more information on how you can support this movement.

*Note: paternity leave is also available to same-sex & LGBTQ+ parents as long as they're the partner/spouse of the birth mother!*

Who are 'Pregnant Then Screwed'?

First of all, you may be asking, who on earth are this charity? If you don't follow them, then you really ought to - they're a goldmine of advice for parents who have to navigate complex rules surrounding employment, pregnancy and parenting.

"Two days after she informed her employer that she was pregnant with her first child, Joeli Brearley was sacked from her job by voicemail. She was four months pregnant and unemployed with bills to pay. Joeli considered taking legal action but then found out she was having a high-risk pregnancy and could go into labour at any moment. Her career and confidence were at rock-bottom and the health of her baby was in jeopardy.

Realising that her experience was not unique, Joeli launched Pregnant Then Screwed on International Women’s Day in 2015, as a space for mothers to share their stories of discrimination. The project quickly grew and today Pregnant Then Screwed is a charity dedicated to ending the motherhood penalty, supporting tens of thousands of women each year, and successfully campaigning for change."

There's so much more to learn - you can find out more here.

What are the current rules on paternity leave for dads/non-birthing parents in the UK?

Did you know - the UK has the least generous paternity leave entitlement in Europe?

Currently, the statutory entitlement to paternity leave is two weeks and the weekly rate for paternity pay is £172 a week, which is 44% of the national living wage - perhaps even less so at the time of writing this article, given the sharp increase in interest rates and inflation since the original data was published.

Pregnant Then Screwed say that new survey data also reveals that for 1 in 5 dads, no parental leave options were available to them following the birth or adoption of their child. For those that were entitled to some paternity leave, but returned to work early, 43% cited money worries as the reason for going back to work early. 63% of all recent dads said they 'did not feel mentally ready to return to work when they did'. How many of you can relate? We'd imagine a fair few.

Now, we all know that statutory maternity pay isn't the greatest - better than many countries, mind - so can many households take the financial hit with both parents experiencing a significantly reduced income? Many parents plan ahead of time and save a nest egg before planning a pregnancy but, for many of us, realistically this is easier said than done. Life happens, babies happen, catastrophic things (burst pipes, broken boilers etc...) happen that eat up our nest eggs!

In addition; did you know, self employed dads/parents can't even apply for SPP unless they pay themselves via PAYE? In addition to this, if the household receives any Universal Credit (most recipient families are also working families, worth noting), their minimum income floor remains the same and if they take time off unpaid, they face being sanctioned by Universal Credit and will have the same deductions taken off their claim regardless of the drop in income due to time off with the new baby?

What is 'Let's Talk About Six' asking for specifically?

So, with all the above in mind, what are Pregnant Then Screwed asking for? Alongside the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP), Pregnant Then Screwed are "calling on the government to increase the length of non-transferable paternity leave to a minimum of six weeks and to pay it at 90% of income in line with current statutory maternity pay, alongside enhancing existing maternity rights to reduce financial hardship, the gender employment gap, and the gender pay gap. Paternity leave should be available to all working dads and partners."

Why do we need to improve paternity pay?

There's so many arguments in support of improving paternity pay in the UK; socio-economic, health, the tackling of gender inequality, and so much more.

A new report from The Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP), Pregnant Then Screwed and Women in Data that examines the societal and economic impact of paternity leave launched in June 2023 - you can read it here. The report examines the economic and health impacts of increasing the statutory entitlement to paternity leave and payment for parents, as well its impacts on gender equality in the UK labour market. It's an extremely enlightening read!

The research in the report found that increasing paid paternity leave allowance to six weeks could actually reduce the gender pay gap and help to achieve gender equality within the labour market, making a huge economic case for tackling this inequality. The data analysis supports the claim that closing gender employment gaps could increase economic output in the UK by a staggering £23 billion! It's a no-brainer, really.

The research also found that only 18% of prospective mums, dads and parents say they or their partner could afford to take six weeks of paternity leave at the current statutory rate of pay. In contrast to this, 57% of prospective parents shared that they or their partner could financially cope with taking six weeks of paternity leave if it was going to be paid at 90% of their income, just like statutory maternity pay is for women currently.

In addition, up to date CPP analysis of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) data found that countries with more than six weeks of paid paternity leave "have a 4 percentage point smaller gender wage gap and 3.7 percentage point smaller labour force participation gap than countries that have less than six weeks". Essentially, this means that closing the gender employment gap in all UK local authorities would boost our economic output by £23 billion, which is around 1% of our GDP - a tremendous difference, in essence.

With regard to the health benefits of improving paternity pay, we're sure so many of you will agree that the reduced pressure and increased help during the early days would be both mentally and physically beneficial. Mums are being expected to just 'get on with things' - even after an emergency caesarean, and even if they and/or their baby is poorly. Dads/non-birthing parents are left at the mercy of their employers, who may or may not use their discretion to give their employee more time off. The mental health of dads is also not considered as becoming a parent is a huge change for them too, emotionally and physically - a little more time to adjust would help.

Finally, the poor provision for paternity leave in the UK reflects an outdated and archaic attitude towards gender roles in the home and absolutely needs updating to be more 'with the times'. This is why it's so important to sign this petition, and to share with all of your parent friends - for every single one of you who has sat crying with your newborn as your partner goes out the door to work, for every single one of you left in debt because poor paternity provision made it impossible to pay the bills, for every single dad who misses out on bonding time in those early days.


Our verdict...

Please sign the petition and share it far and wide, folks! When we spot new march dates being announced in future, we'll be sure to share those too.

We're long-time fans of Pregnant Then Screwed and often refer our community members to them for employment advice as they've helped so many women to fight against unfair dismissal, bullying at work due to becoming a mother, as well as dads who need help navigating gender bias by their employers when needing parental leave. Joeli Brearley and her team fight incredibly hard for the right of working mums and by extension, for the dads impacted by a system that makes it incredibly difficult to start & nurture a family.

We've barely even begun to touch upon the topics that Pregnant Then Screwed goes into depth and provides richly detailed information on, so we'd strongly encourage each and everyone of you to give them a follow.

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