In a study for 2011/12, undertaken by the Trade Union Congress (the "TUC"), it has been revealed that of the 285,000 men asked, only 1,650 or 1% of them took additional paternity leave.
Eligible fathers are entitled to take one or two consecutive weeks of ordinary paternity leave ("OPL") within 56 weeks of the child's birth. To be entitled to such leave the father must have been employed for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of child birth; and must be responsible (or be expected to be responsible) for the child's upbringing.
Since 3 April 2011 new fathers have also been entitled to take additional paternity leave ("APL") if taken at least twenty weeks after the child's birth but before the child's first birthday; and provided the mother has returned to work without taking her full entitlement to ordinary and additional maternity leave. APL can last for between two to twenty six weeks and must be taken in multiples of weeks.
Unlike APL the survey by TUC found that nine out of ten men do take advantage of OPL. The TUC believe this difference is probably due to the fact that many men cannot afford to take APL. During OPL fathers will be entitled to statutory paternity pay which will be the lesser of the current limit set by the Government (£136.78 from 7 April 2013) and 90% of the employee's gross weekly earnings. Exactly the same rates apply during APL, however most employers do not choose to increase this amount. On the other hand many employers make the decision to pay fathers their full pay during OPL, thus making OPL a more attractive financial arrangement than APL.
The Government have recognised that there are flaws in the current system with a spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills ("BIS") saying that "the current system for parental leave is old-fashioned and too rigid". In an attempt to rectify this, the Coalition is introducing a system of shared parental leave in April 2015 which, according to BIS, is "so that fathers can take more leave if they want to in the early days of a child's life".
Under the proposals for shared parental leave parents will be able to share between them up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay. Effectively everything apart from a mother's compulsory maternity leave (the two weeks immediately following the birth of the child) will be capable of being shared. It will be possible for both the mother and the father to take shared parental leave at the same time as well as separately and the leave may be taken in small blocks of at least one week. However, employers will not be obliged to agree to an employee's preferred shared parental leave pattern and the default position, where agreement cannot be reached, will be for a parent's portion of leave to be taken in one continuous block, to start on a date of their choice. Once shared parental leave is introduced the provisions for OPL will continue in force but APL will no longer exist.
The final details of shared parental leave will be contained in Regulations yet to be published. The Government's latest consultation on shared parental leave closed on 17 May 2013 and the response will be published in "late summer".