Skip to content

UK Policy Briefing

Maternity, paternity and parental leave: Briefing for a new government

This briefing covers the problems with the current system, principles for a reformed system and WBG recommendations.


  • UK maternity, paternity and parental leave policy design is based on an out-of-date model that does not encourage sharing of care between parents.
  • Maternity leave provision is up to 52 weeks of leave, 39 of which can be paid (6 at 90% of earnings and 33 at statutory rate of £184 per week). Statutory paternity leave, on the other hand, comprises a 2-week entitlement paid at statutory rate of £184 per week.
  • The shared parental leave policy introduced by the government in 2015 is based on a transfer of maternity leave to the second parent. Transfer of leave models are known to have very limited impact on fathers’ take up of parental leave. ‘Default policy option’ models that provide both partners with an equal share of leave, some of which is transferable, have been shown to be more effective at promoting more gender equal caring.
  • Statutory maternity and paternity pay rates are, in relative terms, among the lowest in Europe. The low rate of replacement pay for paternity leave interacts with the gender pay gap, providing significant barriers to fathers using more leave.
  • Coverage and eligibility for maternity and paternity leave is a key issue. 28% of women and men in employment do not have access to paid paternity or maternity leave due to either their employment status and/or length of service. With increasing casualisation of working arrangements, there are fears this number will rise and particularly impact some of the most vulnerable workers.


  • Six months of non-transferable maternity leave for mothers, paid at 90% of average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks, and at least the real living wage rates for the remaining time.
  • A one-month non-transferable period of leave for fathers or second parents, to be taken around the time of birth, paid at least at the real living wage rate.
  • A six-month use-it-or-lose-it, non-transferable parental leave entitlement for each parent, paid at a flat rate linked at least to the Real Living Wage to replace the existing Shared Parental Leave. Parents should be entitled to this leave in their own right, and have flexibility about how and when to take it, up to 18 months after birth.

Read the full briefing here