Page last updated at 01:14 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 02:14 UK

Fathers 'cool on parental leave'

New parents
Fathers get just two weeks statutory leave after the birth of their children

Only 7% of men would be prepared to stay at home with a newborn baby if maternity benefits were replaced with parental ones, according to a survey.

Even fewer women - 4% - would hand over the role at home to the father, while two-thirds of working mothers said they only kept jobs out of necessity.

The survey of 1,000 people was undertaken for BBC series The Trouble with Working Women.

Presenter Sophie Raworth said having children badly affected women's pay.

Men and women are level on pay in their 20s, but once they hit 30 the gap starts to widen and by the time people are in their 40s the average woman is earning 20% less than a man, she said.

"I think it's no coincidence that the gap starts widening when women tend to settle down and have children," said Ms Raworth, who presents the show alongside Justin Rowlatt.

Every full-time working woman in the UK is paid on average £369,000 less than a man over their career
Men dominate 87% of the top jobs in business
Before children, 85% of working women are in full-time posts. This falls to 34% when they have pre-school children
Source: Equality and Human Rights Commission

"And interestingly women who don't have children tend to continue earning virtually the same as men as they continue in their careers."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said earlier this year that statutory maternity leave should be cut from nine months to six to give fathers more paid time off with their children.

New mothers currently get nine months paid leave, six weeks at 90% of their salary and the rest at the statutory rate of £117.18 a week. Fathers get two weeks at the statutory rate.

But the commission said a high percentage of fathers wanted to spend more time with their children and that offering them more paid time off might help to narrow the gender pay gap.

Among those interviewed for the series are Cherie Booth QC, the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, and Equalities Minister Harriet Harman.

The show's survey found that 54% of respondents thought men were the main breadwinners, although 67% did not think they should be.

Almost one in five women said they experienced sex discrimination at work, while twice as many men than women surveyed had asked for a pay rise in the last five years.

The Trouble With Working Women will be broadcast on Monday, 18 May at 2100 BST on BBC Two.

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