Why are city's new dads taking longer off work?

File photo dated 27/11/11 of a man with a pushchair as the number of men taking paternity leave has

The number of men taking paternity leave has increased in Norwich over the last four years - Credit: PA

Norwich has seen a significant uptick in the number of new dads sharing child care leave - but experts have warned more needs to be done. 

New figures from city insurance company Aviva shows take up of equal leave at the business has hit a record high with 80pc of dads taking at least five months paternity leave.

The average length of paternity leave has increased by three weeks during the last four years at Aviva, increasing from 21 weeks in 2018 to 24 weeks in 2021. 

Meanwhile, the average length of maternity leave has slightly decreased in this time, from 45 weeks in 2018 to 43 weeks in 2021.

Dr Matthew Aldrich, a University of East Anglia associate professor in microeconomics, believes paternity leave has a number of benefits for children's development, their families and the wider economy.

He said: "Access to extended paternity leave generates more equal sharing of care responsibilities longer term, giving mothers better quality opportunities to participate in the labour market."

Dr Matthew Aldrich,  a University of East Anglia associate professor in microeconomics

Dr Matthew Aldrich, a University of East Anglia associate professor in microeconomics - Credit: UEA

But he noted statutory leave across the UK has a large disparity in duration with two weeks for men and 52 weeks for women. 

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Dr Aldrich added: "With most of the burden for childcare and taking time off work or career breaks falling on women, and one of the most expensive childcare systems in Europe, this creates a ‘motherhood pay penalty’ and contributes to the gender pay gap which stifles the wider economy.

"Our research shows that around a quarter of men and women are not eligible for paid statutory maternity and paternity leave in the UK, which also means they are not eligible for shared parental leave. It is also poorly paid.

"There is a trend in families wanting better work-life balance and more equal sharing of care, as the evidence from Aviva shows, but government policy does not facilitate this.

"Evidence across Europe shows countries with more equal and better paid care leave promotes female labour force participation and results in more gender-equal labour markets."

Richard Underhill is a senior marketing manager based in Norwich who has worked for Aviva for 13 years and took paternity leave from October 2019 to April 2020. 

Richard Underhill, a senior marketing manager for Aviva 

Richard Underhill, a senior marketing manager for Aviva - Credit: Contributed

He said: "There’s a movement towards creating a progressive environment where choices about who parents and how much are more equal. And that’s got to be good for everyone."

The dad-of-two is in favour of extended paternity leave having found returning to work "quite challenging" moving into a new role after having time off for the birth of his daughter. 

Mr Underhill said: "For the first few months of my daughter’s life, my wife was still off. But now we’re both back full-time, so family life is a constant spinning of plates.

"This includes getting the kids to places they need to be in the clothes they need to wear with the stuff they need to have.

"Coming back to work was quite challenging. I was going into a new role. I’m a line manager but I’d only met one of my team in person.

"I came back to work just as the country locked down for the first time, so the team had worked out how to work and I was just trying to find my place.

"Luckily, the team had done some nice stuff like putting specific time in the diary each week to talk about anything but work." 

The Aviva worker said the experiences of his six-year-old son and two-year-old daughter being born were "completely different".

Mr Underhill said: "We had general panic about things the first time. We’d turn to each other and say ‘Can you hear him breathing?’ ‘Am I doing the right thing?’

"The second time round, I felt more equipped and relaxed." 

Richard Underhill, a senior marketing manager who took parental leave from October 2019 to April 2020 

Richard Underhill, a senior marketing manager who took parental leave from October 2019 to April 2020 - Credit: Contributed

Danny Harmer, Aviva's chief people officer, said: "Men taking parental leave have a better understanding of the choices female colleagues have to make when balancing parenting with their career which makes them more empathetic colleagues and leaders too."

Mrs Harmer believes companies offering paternal leave helps challenge gender stereotypes about "breadwinners".