European countries putting the UK’s paternity leave to shame

New research compares the UK’s paternity leave and pay to other countries across the world and finds Britain wanting.

Fathers in the UK are not getting enough paid time with their newborn babies, and that ten working days off is not enough, according to First4Lawyers.

Currently, new full-time working fathers in the UK receive two working weeks (ten days) paternity leave with their new-born child at 80 per cent pay. As soon as the two weeks are over, fathers are sent straight back to work.

Shared parental leave was introduced in the UK in 2015 giving parents the right to split up to 52 weeks between them. However, research shows that just one per cent of dads have taken up this benefit.

Unless an employer is more generous, the person on leave for the first six weeks receives 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings or £140.98 per week, whichever is lower. After that, they are transferred on to statutory pay. Earning just £140.98 per week is not enough for the majority of families in the UK meaning many fathers are forced back to work anyway.

Because of this, Family Law Specialists First4lawyers have conducted research to see how other countries compare to the UK. The team collected data from every country across the world to see how many actually offer leave specifically for dads (paternity leave), and how much time they get with their new-born child.

Seven countries that put the UK’s paternity scheme to shame

Worldwide research shows that a total of 28 countries have better paternity leave and pay schemes than the UK, with the majority offering 100 per cent paid leave rather than just 80 per cent. There are also several countries offering leave periods that dwarf the UK’s current two weeks leave policy.

Dads in Sweden receive a total of 18 weeks paternity leave, which is the best in the world. That’s 80 days more with their newborn than fathers in the UK. According to, ‘Gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Swedish society. The aim of Sweden’s gender equality policies is to ensure that everyone enjoys the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all areas of life.’

Sweden also has one of the most generous parental leave systems in the world. Parents of whichever gender are entitled to stay at home with their child for a total of 480 days while receiving 80 per cent of their salary. This is to encourage new dads to stay at home and take full advantage of the generous system.

However, parental leave is primarily taken by the mother – 14 per cent of families share parental leave in Sweden, forcing 86 per cent of fathers back to work with little time with their new born baby.

With just one per cent of dads sharing parental leave in the UK, its proving that shared parental leave schemes are not working and that dads are still missing out on the key times with their new born baby.

Fathers in Iceland receive a total of 12 weeks’ paternity leave specifically for new dads at 80 per cent pay. That’s 50 days more than those living in the UK. Slovenia has a similar scheme of 12 weeks’ paternity leave, with two of those weeks set at 100 per cent paid and then the remaining at 80 per cent.

Lithuania offers a scheme of four weeks leave to new fathers, at 100 per cent pay. That’s ten more days spent with their children than fathers in the UK which can make a huge difference according to child psychologist, Dr Melanie Smart.

Dr Melanie Smart at Chichester Child Psychology says, ‘Paternal attachment to baby (bonding) is often forgotten or side-lined with Mums often taking the main care giver role and therefore being seen as the primary attachment figure for a new-born. Yet Dads have a huge role to play in their family’s lives at this point and onwards.

‘An understanding of the world, their caregivers and themselves is built by babys in those first few days and months. Babies can recognise their fathers voice from inside the womb, will turn to his voice when born and will seek out his face, sounds and smells. Dads need to be involved in all aspects of care in those first months, not just to help mum out but to build a lasting bond. Two involved care givers boosts a child’s physical and mental health, acts as a protective factor in the transition to parenthood and the couple’s mental health, and can enhance the parental relationship.

‘Dads have been found to be more positively challenging, encouraging risk taking and problem solving and fostering independence in children, which are core life skills. In turn, being a hands-on Dad also helps men reduce their stress response (cortisol), enhances nurturing hormones (oxytocin) and can therefore protect their mental health and well-being overall.’

According to our research, a total of 43 countries across the world do not offer paternity leave to new dads. As data shows that parental leave is nearly always used solely by the mother, this is an issue for new dads trying to develop a strong bond during the early days of their child being born.

Although increasing the time spent with the child is extremely important, having that time off paid is essential for fathers in the UK. Many feel forced to return to work as most families simply can’t afford the main breadwinner in the family to bring home such a reduced rate of pay.

Andrew Cullwick, spokesperson at First4lawyers says, ‘The UKs paternity pay should match the majority of Europe’s at 100 per cent paid. This would give families the peace of mind that they can enjoy their time off with their newborn with no financial impact. In relation to paternity leave, two weeks at 80 per cent paid is not enough. A small increase to four weeks at 100 per cent paid would help new dads not only support the mothers but also give them the time needed to build a lasting bond with their child.’

Shockingly, the U.S. doesn’t offer any guaranteed paid leave for new parents, with both mums and dads relying on workplace policies to offer parental leave and pay schemes. Workers at tech brands such as Netflix, Facebook and Twitter are the lucky few who are given time and pay to spend with their new-born babies, but not all Americans are so lucky.

5 brands that offer generous time off for new dads in the US and UK

Netflix – New parents at Netflix can take as much paid parental leave as they like for up to one year after the birth or adoption of a new child. They also have the option to return full-time or part-time, and take additional time off if needed.

Facebook – New parents at Facebook and Instagram can take 17 weeks of paid parental leave, which can be used all at once or spread throughout the course of a year.

Twitter – All new parents at Twitter are given 20 weeks paid leave.

Spotify – Spotify offers six months of fully-paid parental leave to all full-time employees globally. Parents can take the leave at one time, or spread it out as three segments over three years.

AXA – Four months paid leave for parents globally.

Further reading on paternity leave

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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