As mums and dads prepare for increased choice and flexibility on how they use maternity and paternity leave, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has published new research on parents' awareness of their rights.
The research shows many parents - particularly fathers - simply don't know what they're entitled to.
Researchers spoke to 562 fathers of children aged 16 or under. A fifth (20%) did not know if their company offered flexible working to fathers. (By law, fathers are entitled to request flexible working from their employer.)
Meanwhile, 56% of the dads surveyed said that they would look for an employer who offers flexible working when choosing a new job.
Researchers also spoke to mums - a total of 1,691 adults participated in the study.
One in three (34%) parents with children under five did not realise that paid paternity leave is already law.
One in five (22%) wrongly assumed that fathers only need to approach their employer to ask for this leave when their baby is born or before it is eight weeks old. (In reality, to benefit from legal paternity rights, fathers must speak with their employer 15 weeks before the baby is due.)
Almost all (91%) dads with children under five believe it's important that fathers have the option to take paid paternity leave. While nearly two thirds (62%) believe a dad's relationship with their child will suffer if they are not at home after the baby is born.
The research has been published as part of a campaign - Dads at Work - to raise awareness among fathers about their rights.
Fatherhood Institute Chief Executive Rob Williams said:
"It's so important we support working fathers to have time off to spend time with their family and make sure they know how they can do that.
"It not only helps fathers have close, positive relationships with their children but also encourages them to make important decisions with their partners, decisions that are probably on a far greater scale than anything else they've needed to discuss before.
"All this is vital in building strong and stable family relationships."
What are my statutory paternity rights?
- Right to request flexible working: parents of children 16 or under are entitled to request flexible working such as flexi time, part time or working from home and an employer must seriously consider the request.
- Right to paid paternity leave: new dads can take two weeks' paid leave, but they need to notify their employer 15 weeks before the due date.
- Right to parental leave: dads have the right to take up to 13 weeks unpaid leave until their child is five years old (mums also have this right, in addition to statutory maternity leave).
- Right to additional paternity leave (for fathers of children due on or after 3 April 2011): this will allow a mum to transfer the final six months / 26 weeks of her maternity leave to the father once she has returned to work. Some of the leave may even be paid - at the same rate as Statutory Paternity Pay (currently £123.06 per week) - if taken during the mother's maternity pay period. Read Additional Paternity Leave & Pay On Its Way for more information.