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British men and women want paternity leave to double; workers' attitudes and expectations shift

The length of paternity leave should double in duration, new research conducted by QBE in February 2024 has found.

When asked how much paternity leave they had taken, eligible UK fathers said they took three weeks on average. However, when they were asked how long they think fathers should have with their newborns, both men and women want more than two and half times this amount, at seven weeks.

When asked why they could not take longer – more respondents said their parental leave policy would not allow it. Others cited financial considerations, stigma, and personal views.

Last week, the UK Government announced it had no plans to increase Paternity Leave and Pay. The Fatherhood Institute’s petition had more than 14,000 signatures calling for increased leave and pay.

As part of the research, UK parents were asked: how much paternity leave they or their partners had taken, whether it was long enough, how long they think it should be, reasons for not taking longer paternity leave, and whether an alternative paternity leave policy might tempt them to switch jobs.

Responses are starkly different across the generations. Gen Z and Millennials think paternity leave should be 10.5 weeks, whereas Baby Boomers think it should set at four weeks. This compares to seven weeks for Gen X [1]. In addition, when asked how much paternity leave they had taken, Gen Z took seven weeks, compared with four weeks for millennials and two weeks for Gen X and Boomers.

Around the country, Londoners and the Welsh want 10.5 weeks for paternity leave whereas those in the North, Midlands, South, Scotland and Northern Ireland think Dads should be at home for seven weeks.

More than 26m Brits think their own or their partners’ paternity leave was or is too short. However, the research also points to strong gender differences, recording that over 55% of men think their paternity leave was just right, compared to just 36% of women who think their partners’ paternity leave was just right.  In addition, more than 56% of women said their partner’s leave was too short. Gen X are particularly disgruntled about the length of their leave at 58%, compared to just 25% of Gen Z thinking it too short. 

Out of all generations, Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to change jobs to receive better parental leave with 52% and 55% of them respectively saying parental leave would be a reason to find a new job. This compares to 37% of the adult population. 

Recent data from Pregnant Then Screwed and CPP shows increasing entitlement to paternity leave and pay could help close the gender pay gap and increase UK economic output by up to £23 billion. They also reported a 4% decrease in gender wage gap and 3.7% smaller labour force participation gap in countries with more than six weeks of paid paternity leave [2].  

The UK currently allows for the least generous paternity leave policy in Europe – two weeks paid at a set rate of £172 a week, just 44% of the national living wage.


QBE EO People Director, Culture & Employee Experience, Nikki Lees said:

“Evidence shows that to build more productive businesses, we need a diverse workforce. While some progress has been made to reduce pay gaps, challenges remain.

“Attitudes and expectations around parental leave are changing. While some of the UK’s employers are recognising how their policies can directly influence these gaps, more change is needed.

“Actions speak louder than words. Benefits like equalised parental leave help challenge traditional gender roles both at home and at work and address some of the barriers, perceived or otherwise, to career progression. This in turn can help close the gender pay gap and increase equity in leadership.

“Every business faces its own set of challenges, but employers can take incremental steps as their own circumstances allow.  They may consider enhancing parental leave policies by just one week to start - any change in the number of weeks offered can make a difference to families.


“We know we need to push the needle with meeting people’s expectations and in some cases we need to exceed expectations to truly drive the change. QBE is delighted with the positive impact equalised parental leave is already having on our people – and we hope our first year can serve as a model, demonstrating that progressive structures and systems and internal policy change can effectively support workplace equality.”


QBE welcomes first set of Dads back from parental leave

As a broader commitment to diversity and inclusion, business insurer QBE made several updates to its UK benefits including enhanced paternity leave in 2023. In a market leading move, all QBE employees in the UK can now receive 26 weeks at full pay and up to 52 weeks’ leave regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or how they become a parent.

Over the first year of QBE’s equalised parental leave policy, 56 fathers have taken up parental leave with 73% of those taking 22 weeks or more of full pay. An additional five men have taken over six months of parental leave, benefitting from extra time at home with their child beyond the paid allowance.


 The average length of paternity leave taken at QBE rose from 8.6 days in 2022 to 150 days in 2023.


“Some of our fathers are just returning to work this month and we are hearing what a positive difference this leave had made for them and their families,” says Lees.

“Providing the right options like equal parental leave has a positive impact on gender equality more generally, reflecting the needs of dual career families, as time away from work to care for a child can be more equally split. 

“Breaking down gender stereotypes and challenging the norms around who raises children in the home is a key piece of the puzzle. As an industry, I believe we have a role to play to raise our game and offer the policies that will remove barriers and help attract the next generation of financial services and insurance professionals”.


Sam Wade – case study – Lean Process Engineer, QBE EO.

When Sam Wade was first considering his paternity leave options, he had thought he would take around three months.

“Admittedly, I was concerned that if I was out of sight, I would be out of mind, unable to contribute and be relevant at an important time for the business. But then when my fiancé had a traumatic birth, I realised we really needed me to extend the leave” said Wade, 34, from East Sussex.

“I felt fortunate that when things didn’t go to plan, I was supported by QBE, and I was given flexibility to extend my paternity leave.”

Sam Wade is one of 56 fathers at QBE who have taken advantage of its new paternity leave policy, announced in 2023.  He took six months of paid paternity leave.

“I was definitely part of the minority when it came to the antenatal class – most other fathers I met just got two weeks of leave and needed to top this up with annual leave,” he said.

Wade thinks it’s a good idea to plan as much as you can in advance of expecting a child for the first time.

“It’s good to have a contingency plan if things don’t go to plan. Being a new parent is not easy and I would encourage everyone to tap into the support networks available.

“Thanks to the supportive model provided by QBE, I am grateful to have had more time to build a strong relationship with my daughter, whilst also further contributing to the new day-to-day activities.

“The more fathers who take extended paternity leave, the better the understanding will be for more returning mothers,” Wade said.


On behalf of QBE, Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,000 UK adults aged 18+ from 30th January to the 2nd February 2024. Results have been weighted to be nationally representative.


For further information contact:

Sandra Villanueva, Corporate Communications, QBE, 020 7105 5284,

Georgie Hall, Corporate Communications, QBE, 0789 0647 808,

About QBE

QBE helps businesses build resilience through risk management and insurance.

QBE European Operations is part of QBE Insurance Group, one of the world’s leading international insurers and reinsurers and Standard & Poor’s A+ rated. Listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, QBE’s gross written premium for the year ended 31 December 2022 was US$20 billion.

As a business insurance specialist, QBE European Operations offers a range of insurance products from the standard suite of property, casualty and motor to the specialist financial lines, marine and energy. All are tailored to the individual needs of our small, medium and large customer base.

We understand the crucial role that effective risk management plays in all organisations and work hard to understand our customers’ businesses so that we offer insurance solutions that meet their needs – from complex programmes to simpler e-trading solutions – and support them in minimising their risk exposures. Our expert risk management and rehabilitation practitioners focus on helping customers improve their risk management so that they may benefit from a reduction in claims frequency and costs.

Recent benefits introduced for UK Employees at QBE

Along with the addition of its enhanced family-friendly policies, QBE has also introduced several wellbeing-focused initiatives to UK employees in 2023:

  • Annual leave allowance increased to 30 days
  • Private medical cover expanded to include support with fertility investigations and treatment, menopause, gender dysphoria and assessment and early support for autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia.
  • The introduction of Peppy, the digital health app, to provide UK employees with personalised expert support and resources on menopause, fertility and early parenthood.

[1] Where referenced, Gen Z = 18-26 year olds; Millennial = 27-42 year olds; Gen X = 43-58 year olds and Baby Boomers = 59-77 year olds

[2] Paternity leave, gender equality and the UK economy