Toll of discrimination against dads and mums at work highlighted

New survey shows the discrimination dads face if they take any form of parental leave while the Women & Equalities Committee submits its recommendations to a Government consultation on pregnancy and maternity discrimination.


Equal parental leave

Forty-four per cent of fathers have experienced discrimination in the workplace after exercising their right to take time off to look after their child, according to a new poll.

The poll of 1,000 dads, commissioned by communications software company PowWowNow, found one in four fathers suffered verbal abuse or mockery after taking time off to look after their child, whether as paternity leave or Shared Parental Leave. It comes as the Women and Equalities Committee published its submission to the Government’s consultation on pregnancy and maternity discrimination protections. The consultation is in part a response to an Equality and Human Rights Commission, showing widespread discrimination against pregnant women and those on maternity leave.

Negative impact

The poll found over a third (35%) of new dads said they had suffered a negative impact on their career after exercising their right to parental leave. Of these, 17 percent suffered job loss, while nearly 20 percent received a demotion.

Over half (55%) of employers said they believed that workers at their organisation felt taking SPL would limit their career.

Previously released findings from the survey showed just one in 10 fathers have taken Shared Parental Leave (SPL) since its introduction in 2015, even though 85 percent wish they had taken more time off to look after their child.

Jason Downes, MD of PowWowNow, said: “It’s high time workplace culture evolved to ensure fathers are confident their rights as parents will be respected. Employers must implement family-friendly policies and better encourage the uptake of flexible working practices that allow men to help raise children and better fit work around family life.”

Redundancy protection

The Women and Equalities Committee’s submission says it welcomes government proposals to provide an additional period of protection against redundancy for new mothers, but says the proposals made in the consultation document need to go further with regard to enforcement of existing and new rights.

It also says that it supports an extension to the protections against redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave, for a period of six months following their return to work, to be implemented as soon as possible and says any extension of protection should also apply to those on adoption leave or shared parental leave.

Other recommendations include:

  • that the Government set up a single comprehensive website for employers and individuals so that information on rights related to parenting and work is accessible and easy to understand. In addition, it asks the Government to work with relevant stakeholders including the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, to ensure frontline health professionals can provide basic advice to women and signpost them to further information and resources
  • a call for large companies to be required to report on retention rates for women 12 months after returning from maternity leave and 12 months after lodging an application for flexible working
  • a request for confirmation that the new enforcement agency will be tackling maternity and pregnancy discrimination as part of their core function
  • a call for any consultation process into extending the time limit for pregnancy/maternity discrimination claims
    to be started swiftly and take into account existing support for increasing the time limit for claims from three months to six months.

Meanwhile, MP Jess Phillips, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Work has called for equal parental leave of nine months for mums and dads. Speaking on an ITV podcast, she said parental leave policies were not in keeping with modern family life and added that having nine months’ leave for mums, followed by nine months for dads would address some of the challenges of early childcare. Phillips also called for universal free childcare until children enter school.

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