The Government should consider introducing a new policy of 12 weeks’ standalone fathers’ leave in the child’s first year as an alternative to shared parental leave, according to a report from the Women and Equalities Committee.
The report says the leave could be paid at be paid at 90 per cent of salary for of the first four weeks (with a cap
for higher earners), and at statutory leave for the remaining eight weeks. It recognises that this would be costly, but says savings could include mothers taking less maternity leave, mothers being more likely to remain in the workforce and having greater long-term financial security.
The report states that the Government needs to reform workplace policies so they meet the needs of today’s families and better support working dads in caring for their children.
It finds that current policies supporting fathers in the workplace such as Shared Parental Leave and flexible working do not deliver what they promise, despite good intentions and that this is particularly the case for less well-off fathers.
It also highlights the fact that enabling dads to take a more active role in childcare is a key factor in addressing the gender pay gap.
The report recommends that statutory paternity pay should be brought more in line with SMP, being paid at 90% of salary, although capped for higher earners. It also calls on the Government to legislate for the right to request flexible working to be a day one right unless there are solid business reasons not to – currently employees have to be in post for 26 weeks before they can apply for flexible working. In addition, it says workplace rights for dads who are agency workers or self employed should be harmonised with those for employed fathers, for instance, by introducing paternity allowance along similar lines to maternity allowance for mums.
Chair of the Committee, Maria Miller MP, said: “The evidence is clear – an increasing number of fathers want to take a more equal share of childcare when their children are young but current policies do not support them in doing so. There is a historical lack of support for men in this area, and negative cultural assumptions about gender roles persist.
“While the Government has taken positive steps forwards and has good intentions, workplace policies have not kept up with the social changes in people’s everyday lives. Outdated assumptions about men’s and women’s roles in relation to work and childcare are a further barrier to change.
“If we want a society where women and men have equality both at work and at home, I would strongly urge ministers to consider our findings. Effective policies around statutory paternity pay, parental leave and flexible working are all vital if we are to meet the needs of families and tackle the gender pay gap.”
The report also recommends fathers who are employees should be entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal
appointments as a day-one right and the Government should consider the benefits of amending the protected
characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 to add an additional characteristic of ‘paternity’ to create cultural change. In addition the report calls for more research into take-up of unpaid parental leave policies and voices concerns that the policies are undermined by a lack of awareness, amongst both employers and employees.
Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk, said: “Workingmums.co.uk welcomes this report and supports its recommendations on paternity leave and making flexible working a day one right. We are clear from talking to many employers that equality at work begins with equality at home and that the Government needs to do more to enable dads to take a greater role in childcare. Patterns established from the outset will lead to greater sharing of care in the long term, benefiting both mothers and fathers. Extending standalone leave for fathers is an important aspect of this and offers families greater choice as well as addressing one of the concerns about Shared Parental Leave – that it is seen as the mother giving up part of her leave rather than a fundamental right for dads.”