Parental leave ‘needs to reflect modern ways of working’



Around a quarter of parents are not eligible for paid maternity or paternity leave, according to a new report which calls for greater clarification of the effect of employment status on employment rights.

The report by the Modern Fatherhood project found that those who were not eligible were most commonly self employed or haven’t worked for their current employer for long enough. It calls for paternity allowance, along the lines of maternity allowance, for self-employed dads and those who do not meet the 26-week qualifying period.

It found that 30% of employed fathers and 10% of employed mothers do not have access to flexible working, with fathers working in male dominated industries less likely to have access to flexible working than those working in gender balanced or female-dominated industries.

It says employers should review their practices, particularly in male-dominated and mixed workplaces and recommends mentoring, training and awareness raising to support organisational change.

The report says that to improve access to family-friendly employment rights and entitlements and to keep up with new forms of employment there should be legislation to clarify statutory definitions of and protections linked to employment status. In particular it calls for greater clarity about the national insurance and tax contributions the self-employed and “worker” status individuals need to make in order to secure access to paid family friendly statutory support.

It also recommends a flexible 26 week qualifying period could help more mothers and fathers gain access to family friendly working practices. The report says that the law needs to recognise new forms of discontinuous employment and ensure greater flexibility about the timing of the 26 week qualifying period, for instance, making it discontinuous and extending it over a longer period before the baby is due. One example it gives is 66 weeks (15 months) in line with the current design of maternity allowance.

The report calls for timely and routine government data collection on access to and use of parental leave and flexible working arrangements would help identify inequalities and track progress more accurately.

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