Stark disparity in paternity pay, says UCU

Packages vary widely with 10 universities offering new fathers only two weeks’ statutory pay

June 5, 2014

Paternity pay at some universities is less than a fifth of that awarded at other institutions, figures have revealed.

As Times Higher Education reported last month, female staff at some universities receive less than half the maternity pay awarded to new mothers on the same salary at other institutions.

But disparities in paternity pay across the sector are arguably more stark, according to information collected by the University and College Union.

The most generous employer according to the UCU data is Queen’s University Belfast, which offers new fathers three weeks’ leave on full pay, assuming that they have at least 26 weeks’ service four months before the baby is due – a deal worth about £2,054 for a lecturer on £35,597 a year.

But a total of 10 institutions offer only two weeks’ statutory paternity pay, which is £138.14 a week, to staff with the same length of service.

Most universities offer either 10 days’ leave at full pay – 51 institutions did so – or a week’s leave at full pay followed by a week’s statutory pay (62 institutions did this).

For a father on the above salary, those benefits would amount to £1,369 or £823, respectively.

Some universities operate a two-tier system, in which employees with a year’s service receive a week’s full pay followed by a week at statutory, but those employed for less than a year receive the legal minimum (two weeks at statutory pay).

When paternity packages for those with a year’s service were considered, Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln and the University of Chester offered the worst terms, according to the UCU’s figures – three days at full pay, followed by seven days at statutory.

A spokeswoman for Bishop Grosseteste said that it took staff welfare very seriously and will be reviewing its policy on paternity pay.

Chester is also reviewing its policies, but said that its overall remuneration and benefits package “compares favourably with the higher education sector and with organisations outside it”.

Other institutions that offered less-than-generous packages financially include the universities of Bournemouth and Staffordshire, which offer three days at full pay followed by 10 days at statutory – a longer period of leave but less than some others in terms of pay.

Staffordshire said that it was reviewing its policies on paternity leave, but added that it “has never previously been raised as a matter for complaint or concern”. Bournemouth declined to comment.

The “vast majority of higher education institutions offer paternity packages that exceed statutory requirements”, said a spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.

Policies found in universities are in line with other major sectors, such as the NHS (two weeks’ full pay) and local government, including school teachers, which usually offer one week at full pay and one week at the statutory rate, he added.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said that flexible and paid leave for partners was vital as it helps them to participate in their children’s upbringing, which studies show benefit child development and women’s working lives.

“Institutions should recognise the benefits of shared parenting by ensuring partners get adequate paid leave to participate in the early years of their children’s lives,” she added.

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