The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has stated that the shared parental leave and pay scheme needs 'overhauling', and has urged the government to take action.
The scheme was introduced four years ago, and allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them.
Research published by the University of Birmingham recently revealed that just 9,200 new parents took shared parental leave and pay in 2017/18.
According to the TUC, one of the reasons for the low take-up is that the scheme is 'low-paid': in the 2018/19 tax year, parents were entitled to just £145.18 per week. This amount rose to £148.68 per week for 2019/20. The TUC said that this makes the scheme 'unaffordable for most fathers'.
Additionally, the business group stated that many fathers are on zero-hour contracts, or are agency workers: such workers are not eligible for shared parental leave. It also highlighted the fact that self-employed parents 'don't get any shared leave whatsoever'.
The TUC has called for the scheme to be extended to those who are self-employed, those on a zero-hour contract and to agency workers. It also advocates increasing the rate of pay to 'at least the minimum wage level'.
Commenting on the issue, Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said: 'Without better rights to well-paid leave, many new parents will continue to miss out on spending time with their children. And mums will continue to take on the lion-share of caring responsibilities.'