12 per cent rise in parental leave during pandemic

  • Parental leave increased by two weeks on average during the pandemic
  • Number of parents who took time off over the pandemic increased, with 92 per cent taking leave compared to 84 per cent pre-pandemic
  • Number of parents taking shared parental leave for financial reasons rose by 144 per cent over pandemic

New research from Direct Line Life Insurance1 reveals that the number of UK adults taking parental leave rose during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the proportion of working parents taking leave over the past two years rising from 84 per cent before the pandemic to 92 per cent during it.

Overall, parents took an average of four months and three weeks’ of parental leave, looking after their children during the pandemic, up from four months and one week before the pandemic. This represents a 12 per cent increase in the time taken off work, as new parents changed their habits during lockdown.

The research reveals that fathers actually took an average of three days’ less paternity leave during the pandemic, 49 days, compared to 52 before lockdown. For mothers, the opposite is true; the average amount of leave taken by women rose by 10 per cent, from 30 weeks to 33 weeks during the pandemic.

When looking at the reasons why parents took shared parental leave over the last five years, being able to spend time with their child in their first year was the most important (24 per cent), with the financial benefit (16 per cent) coming second and a desire to share responsibility (12 per cent) third.

Table one: Number of working UK parents who took shared leave after their child was born

Parental leave taken?

Share of parents



Yes - It was more financially beneficial (i.e. the mother returning to work sooner)

9 per cent

22 per cent

Yes - We both wanted to spend time with our child in their first year

29 per cent

19 per cent

Yes - It was important for us to equally share responsibility

14 per cent

10 per cent

No – we did not take shared parental leave

43 per cent

48 per cent

N/A – I was not in a relationship

4 per cent

1 per cent

Source: Direct Line Life Insurance 2022

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that a million (21 per cent) pandemic parents actually increased the amount of parental leave they took over the course of the pandemic potentially due to so many childcare facilities being closed, compared to the 225,000 (nine per cent) that decreased their leave.

Overall, parents working from home over the pandemic actually found spending time with their children more enjoyable, with 47 per cent of 0 to two year olds stating this, along with 34 per cent of parents of ages three to five years old.

Vincent Guadagnino, Communications Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, commented: “Parenting over the pandemic was incredibly difficult, with people  having to deal with the challenges of juggling work and often limited childcare options, but it’s great to see that many have been able to enjoy the time spent with their children.

“It’s also wonderful to see an increase in parents taking shared parental leave. Spending time with children and loved ones naturally leads to thinking about the future. When looking to plan ahead, we would encourage people to consider life insurance options to ensure they have the best cover in place to protect their family should the worst happen.”

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

1.      Omnibus research commissioned among 4,000 UK adults of whom 443 have a child aged between 0-5 between 18th and 22nd February 2022.  Percentages in the table may not round to 100 per cent due to rounding.

2.      Average weekly hours worked figure from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings for 2021, published 26.10.21

For further information please contact:

Chelsey Wheeler 

Deputy Head of News and Issues 

[email protected]

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel, pet and life insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line life insurance policies are underwritten by AIG Life Limited, part of the American International Group, Inc. Registered office: The AIG Building, 58 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 4AB. AIG Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority (FRN number 473752. You can check the FCA register at www.fca.org.uk/register or call the FCA on 0800 111 6768.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0800 077 8297 or visiting www.directline.com/life-cover