The UK currently has the least generous paternity leave entitlement in Europe. The statutory offering is two weeks at £172 a week—just 44% of the national living wage. 

Research shows that improved paternity leave and pay could help close the gender pay gap. Women in Data even found a 4% decrease in the wage gap in countries with more than six weeks of paid paternity leave. 

The Current Global Scenario 

Globally, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts—17% less on average. This gap is even more pronounced for mothers, indicating a clear link between parenthood and pay inequality. 

When it comes to parental leave policies, the disparities are even more evident. While most countries provide some form of maternity leave, paternity leave policies are not as widespread.  

The average global maternity leave duration stands at 191 days, compared to a mere 21 days for paternity leave. 

The Impact on the Gender Pay Gap 

While there are many factors that contribute to the discrepancies we see worldwide, women are often faced with the ‘time squeeze’, juggling their professional responsibilities and familial caregiving duties. This phenomenon has a profound impact on their career choices and work continuity, thereby contributing to the gender pay gap. 

Research shows that more women would enter work or agree to longer hours if there were fewer requirements for unpredictable hours and if childcare was more flexible and affordable. 

Similarly, when fathers and partners take paternity leave, it can support a mother’s return to work. Data from a YouGov survey has found that 65% of mothers with children under the age of 12 thought that increasing paid paternity leave would have a positive impact on mothers’ readiness to return to work.  

Although many women make a voluntary choice to work part-time, in reality these choices are constrained by employment practices, social norms, and a lack of social infrastructure. 

gender pay gap

Encouraging Greater Uptake of Paternity Leave 

While the introduction of paternity leave policies is a step in the right direction, it is equally important to encourage fathers to take this leave. This could be achieved through societal and employer attitude changes, as well as making the policies more attractive for fathers. 

Not only could it be financially beneficial in closing the gender pay gap, but 29% of parents surveyed said either they or their partner had experienced a new mental health issue in the two years following the birth of their most recent child. 

Providing fathers with a more substantial amount of time at home could help mitigate many of the mental health challenges faced by new parents. It’s not just about ensuring they are financially able to take this time off, but prioritising their wellbeing and ensuring they are physically and mentally ready to return to work after the births of their children. 

Reducing the Leave Gap 

It’s important to remember that a lower gender pay gap doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about the level of pay equity in the workplace. 

Instead of aiming for zero, we need to focus on creating equal opportunities and eliminating the inequities that exist now. 

Reducing the gap between the number of days allocated to each parent for leave could lead to an increase in women’s labour force participation rates. This relationship is particularly strong in regions like South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

While parental leave policies are necessary for inclusion in the workforce, additional policies may be needed to support their career progression. These could include flexible working arrangements, childcare support, and initiatives to address unconscious bias in the workplace. 


Addressing the gender pay gap is a complex issue that is determined by a huge number of factors. However, parental leave policies, specifically paternity leave, clearly play a significant role.  

By encouraging a more equitable distribution of caregiving responsibilities, we can move towards a more inclusive and equitable work environment. However, it is crucial to remember that these policies alone will not suffice, and a broader commitment to diversity and inclusion is needed to truly drive change.