Who offers the best parental leave?

Whether you’re having your first child or your third, few things are more precious in life than those first few weeks with your new-born.

Not only does it help to develop that crucial bond between parent and child, but having both parents on hand to help with midnight nappy changes makes the initial shock of raising a child much easier.

Unfortunately, despite all the stress and life changes that accompany raising a new-born, most dads could find themselves back at work within two weeks, even if they sought more paternity leave to begin with.

While new rules around working from home have helped to ease this strain, whether through a lack of flexibility, paternity cover, or affordability, it would appear dads are getting shortchanged when it comes to the early weeks of raising their children.

With that in mind, the team at Reassured decided to look at which countries and industries are the best and worst for parental leave, as well as how dads feel about the parental leave options they were given.

Read on to learn exactly what our survey uncovered...

What did our parental leave study reveal?

As part of our research to see how paternity leave varies, we surveyed 250 dads in the UK to learn about their experiences in taking time off work to help raise their children.

Perhaps most shockingly, it appears just 17.1% of those we spoke with said they were allowed 5 - 6 weeks of paid parental leave.

That’s less than a fifth of all fathers we reached out to.

Based on our stats, it would seem most dads were only offered 1 - 2 weeks of paid leave before needing to return to work, a very short period when you consider that the average length of paid maternity leave is approximately 5 - 6 weeks across the globe.

However, despite this short period of paid leave, most dads still felt their employers were doing enough to support them in the workplace, with 71% agreeing with this sentiment.

On top of this, 66% of dads also felt they were given enough time to bond with their child while off, although 60% did say they wished their paternity leave matched that of their partners.

While there’s clearly some positive sentiment around how fathers are treated with their paternity leave, 52% of those we surveyed did say they felt there was an expectation for them to return to work sooner than agreed.

And a full 41% said they were flat-out denied a longer paternity leave than they’d like.

Which UK cities are the best and worst for paternity leave?

It’s clear that not all fathers are happy with the paternity leave options they were offered but, overall, it appears that most parents were allowed 5 - 6 weeks of paid leave to start raising their children.

Where exactly in the UK was best for this?

The best UK city for parental leave from our research was Manchester. Here, 41% of parents were allowed a surprising 9 - 10 weeks off work.

This was then closely followed by Newcastle, where 40.7% of parents had 7 - 8 weeks of paid leave.

And where was the worst?

Norwich and Liverpool appear to be the worst cities for parental leave, offering just 1 - 2 weeks for 33.3% and 30% of parents.

What other regional findings did the survey reveal?

Not only did our survey reveal that paternity leave varies between different cities in the UK, but there were also differences in other factors relating to paternal leave, including:

Negative impacts of longer paternity leave

As for cities where the negative impacts of longer paternity leave were the highest, Leeds is ahead of everywhere else in the UK, with a full 70% of fathers we spoke to stating their careers could have been impacted by taking longer paternity leave.

This is compared to just 45% in London and 43% in Birmingham.

Expectation to work over paternity leave

It also seems to be the same story when it comes to expectations to work over paternity leave, with 70% of dads in Leeds again saying they felt pressured to be back at work sooner than agreed.

In contrast to this, only 25% of dads in Nottingham said they experienced this.

Expectation to return to work early

Finally, many fathers also felt they were expected to return from paternity early, with this being the case for 56% of dads in Newcastle, 50% in Leeds, but only 39% in Nottingham.

As for being denied longer paternity leave, 50% of dads in London and Birmingham said this happened to them, compared to just 22% of fathers in Liverpool.

Which UK industries are the worst for paternity leave?

So, we’ve seen where in the UK is poor for paternity leave, but what about UK industries?

Well, when it comes to industries where your career could be impacted by a longer paternity leave, shockingly, 100% of those working in charity and law said this was the case.

Other sectors highly impacted included law enforcement and security (75%), as well as recruitment and HR, transport, and accountancy roles (67%).

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for UK dads. For those in the creative arts and design industry, only 20% said they felt their career could be affected. This was also true for those in a teaching and education role.

The industry least affected by longer paternity leave was the energy and utilities sector, which had the lowest score in this area of just 13%.

The best countries for paternity leave

With a thorough analysis of the state of UK paternity leave out of the way, let’s see how we compare to other countries around the world. Unfortunately, on this front, it’s not looking good.

Out of the 43 countries we analysed, the UK came in 24th, with its average paternity leave length of 2 weeks and most UK companies offering just an 18.5% overall average payment rate.

This is in sharp contrast to the number one country, Spain, which offers dads an average of 16 weeks of paid paternity leave at 100% of their salary.

Spain’s paternity leave benefits beat that of every other country we included.

The Netherlands, which came in at number two, only offers an average of 6 weeks paid leave, less than half that of Spain, and at 79.9% of the average salary, though this is still miles ahead of what UK fathers are offered.

Other top contenders also included Portugal in third, which offers fathers an average leave of 5 weeks at 100% pay.

France, in fourth, which matches Portugal’s 5 weeks, but at a 91.4% average payment rate.

And Estonia, which offers its dads 4.3 weeks of paid leave on average, but at 100% of their salary.

Parental leave study map desktop

The best countries for maternity leave

While we’ve touched predominantly on paternity leave in this analysis, we wouldn’t be doing a study of parental leave in Europe justice without also highlighting which countries are the best for maternity leave.

Unlike our paternity leave options, the UK performs quite well when it comes to giving mums paid time off.

In fact, the UK comes 2nd in our study for maternity leave benefits, offering an average of 52 weeks of maternity leave at 78% pay.

This is only beaten by Croatia, in first place, which offers mums a staggering 58 weeks leave at 100% pay.

Besides Croatia and the UK, other countries with great maternity leave options include Australia, which like the UK offers 52 weeks of paid leave, while Bulgaria comes in fourth, providing its mothers with 32 weeks of paid leave at 90% of their salary.

And in fifth, we have the Czech Republic, which provides 28 weeks of maternity leave at 60% pay.

The best and worst UK industries for parental leave

Finally, let’s focus our attention on the best and worst UK industries for parental leave.

Best and worst maternity leave

For mums, it would appear that consumer non-cyclical work offers the best maternity leave options at 24.5 weeks.

This is then followed by the real estate industry, which averages 23.9 weeks, finance and healthcare providing 22 weeks, and industrial work areas providing 21.4 weeks on average.

In contrast, the worst areas for maternity leave appear to be the energy and utilities sector and consumer cyclical work, which provides an average of just 18.8 and 16.8 weeks respectively.

Best and worst paternity leave

For fathers, the results are much the same, with healthcare providing the best paternity leave with an average of 12 weeks, followed by those in finance receiving 11.5 weeks, industrial positions offering 9.6 weeks, tech jobs providing 7.3 weeks, and cyclical work providing 7 weeks on average.

Interestingly, the energy and utilities sector also proves to be one of the worst industries for paternity leave, averaging out at just 3.6 weeks of leave, though this is far more compared to real estate work, which provides just 1.9 weeks.

Best industries parental leave table

And there you have it, the state of UK parental leave and how it compares to other countries around the globe.

Hopefully, with this information in hand, you should know exactly where to look for your next role if you want the best parental leave benefits, so you can spend even more time bonding with your new-born.

But it’s not just maternity and paternity leave you should bear in mind when having a child.

Life is filled with unforeseen twists and turns, which makes having the right insurance crucial to ensure your family is protected, should the worst happen.

Get in touch with the Reassured team today to learn more about our family life insurance policies, so you can be sure your family can handle whatever life throws your way.


Survey of 250 UK fathers conducted by research provider, TLF, August 2023.

Industry statistics: Analysed all the internal maternity and paternity leave policies that are published online for the top FTSE 100 companies and broken down by industry. Data correct as of 2023

Please note, the data displayed in this article is correct at the point of publication 21/09/23

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