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The Government has called for a public debate about funding workplace support for dads, but has dismissed calls for increases in paternity pay, more standalone paternity leave and the introduction of a paternity allowance for self-employed dads.
The Government published its response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s March report, Fathers and the workplace, today. Although it called the document a ‘focused and thoughtful report’ and says it accepts the need for change, it rejected most of its recommendations and did not suggest alternatives.
Key recommendations from the March 2018 report include:
On increasing paternity pay, the Government response states: “As the Government said in its response to the Committee’s predecessor’s report on the gender pay gap, a fundamental principle underlying maternity leave is that it is provided to enable women to recover from birth. There is a legal requirement for women to take a compulsory period of maternity leave immediately following the birth. That legal requirement is unique to mothers, and clearly so is the physical recovery from childbirth. That is why there is a difference between maternity leave and pay and paternity leave and pay entitlements.”
On Shared Parental Leave it says SPL could be “more transformative” than changing from the so-called “maternal transfer” model to standalone leave. It says: “The fact that the leave is shared between the mother and the father or partner, in almost whatever way they decide, encourages parents to have the discussion about sharing childcare in a way that the Committee’s alternative proposition, of giving the father a self-standing right, might not. In that regard shared parental leave has the potential to be more transformative, over the longer term, in promoting more equal sharing of childcare responsibilities and work responsibilities between parents, both in the first year and beyond, precisely because it encourages a discussion and a “maternal transfer”.”
It adds: “While the international evidence suggests that a dedicated pot of leave for the father may result in a higher proportion of fathers taking leave in the first year of a child’s life, it is much more mixed in terms of the relative share of all leave that the mother and father take, and the longer term impacts on how families share caring responsibilities.”
And it states that bringing in paternity allowance is part of a broader discussion about changes to the tax and benefits system. On flexible working, it says the legislation is currently being reviewed.
Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, said:“The Government has previously voiced good intentions when it comes to family friendly policies, but the response to our report is a missed opportunity. Dads are calling for change and the Gender Pay Gap will not be tackled until dads get the support they need to support their children too.
“Our inquiry heard from a range of well-informed voices, including employers, unions and fathers themselves. Many cited the poor take up of key initiatives such as Shared Parental Leave as sign they are not working. It is regrettable that more of this evidence base has not been acted upon.
“It is also surprising that the Government’s response does not refer to its own recently published research on the gender pay gap which found that if men and women took similar amounts of unpaid family leave the gender pay gap would decrease by 13%.
“Despite this, there is some encouragement that ministers recognise the need for a debate about the costs and benefits of modernising workplace support for fathers and families. We will continue to press for reform.”
Julia Waltham, Head of Policy & Campaigns at work life balance charity Working Families said:“The government’s response can be summed up in five words – heavy on the long grass. Action to support fathers in the workplace – particularly around the levels of statutory pay and support for self-employed fathers – is already long overdue.
“Sufficient pay is crucial to encourage fathers to take leave around childbirth and in the first year; the current levels of paternity and shared parental pay are not sufficient to ensure all fathers use it. The government’s response is another missed opportunity to address this.”