A TUC survey found that less than 1% of those entitled to take additional paternity leave did so. The main reason given was that they cannot afford the drop in pay. A review of comments on news sites that covered the story reveals an interesting reaction to the survey. As well as affordability other reasons for not taking the time off were concerns about damaging career prospects, a concern shared by women also, and some stereotypical comments about men's and women's roles in bringing up children. A number of commentators also expressed concern about the impact that men taking such time off would have on their business, a concern which is perhaps not so readily expressed about mothers taking time off on maternity leave.
The Government believes that the current system for parental leave is too rigid and old fashioned. It currently proposes abolishing additional paternity leave and introducing the concept of shared parental leave and pay from 2015. Administering shared parental leave may prove challenging for employers and it will be interesting to see the Government's final proposals. It will also be interesting to see if the changes, kick started with the introduction of additional paternity leave, will lead to a cultural shift in attitudes in both new fathers / parents and employers towards men taking time off to share caring responsibilities for new born and young children. Given the reaction to the TUC survey, any difficulties in administering the new system may well be overshadowed by the cultural obstacles faced by men taking time off.