20 MARCH 2018


A new report from the Women and Equalities Committee finds that current policies supporting fathers in the workplace do not deliver what they promise, despite good intentions and this is particularly the case for less well-off fathers.

Fawcett Society Chief Executive Sam Smethers says: 

“We need a radical re-think of our parental leave system. The antiquated assumption that dad goes back to work while mum stays home to look after the baby bears no relation to what most parents in the UK want. Yet our parental leave system is still driven by a 1950s model of family life.”
 
“We are particularly pleased to see the Committee recommend 3 months’ reserved ‘daddy leave’. This leave needs to be paid at a high enough rate so that dads can afford to take it. When an employer thinks a man and a woman are equally as likely to take time off to look after the kids, we will begin to address one of the fundamental drivers of the gender pay gap”.
 
“Creating a new norm where every job is required to be advertised as flexible from day one will drive a transformation in workplace culture which will support parents, carers and indeed everyone in the workplace who needs or values flexibility.”
The report concludes that the right to request flexible working has not created the necessary cultural change and the Government itself admitted to the inquiry that its flagship shared parental leave scheme will not meet its objective for most fathers.
 
The report comes as the deadline approaches for gender pay gap reporting. The Government says that fathers taking a more active role in caring for their children is a key way of ending the gender pay gap.
 
The Committee recommends that:
  • Statutory paternity pay should be paid at 90% of the father’s pay (capped for higher earners) to help ensure that all fathers, regardless of income, can be at home around the time of their child’s birth;
  • The Government should consider the costs and benefits of introducing a new policy of 12 weeks’ standalone fathers’ leave in the child’s first year as an alternative to shared parental leave when it reviews the policy this year;
  • The Government should legislate immediately to make a reality the Prime Minister’s call for all jobs to be advertised as flexible from day one, unless there are solid business reasons not to;
  • The Government should harmonise workplace rights for fathers who are agency workers or self-employed with those for employed fathers where practical – for example by introducing paternity allowance similar to maternity allowance.
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.”
 
Committee member, Gavin Shuker MP, said:
 
“Fathers’ attitudes to caring for their children are changing. They are carrying out a greater proportion of childcare than ever before but are still doing less than half the childcare that mothers do. We were concerned to hear that men simply don’t feel able to ask their employers for leave or flexible working due to a macho culture or for fear it will harm their career prospects.
 
“We need to tackle these attitudes. Family-friendly Government policies are unlikely to be effective without a cultural shift. It is very important – and only fair – that fathers of all incomes have an equal chance to bond with their children in the same way as mothers.”

BACKGROUND: FATHERS AND THE WORKPLACE INQUIRY

The Fathers and the workplace inquiry was launched in the last Parliament by the previous Committee in January 2017.
 
Research published by Working Families shows that 53% of millennial fathers want to downshift into a less stressful job because they can’t balance the demands of work and family life (Modern Families Index 2017, Working Families and Bright Horizons)
 
The inquiry follows on from the Committee’s report on the Gender Pay Gap in March 2016 which found that:
 
  • Sharing care between fathers and mothers is the key to reducing the Gender Pay Gap
  • Many fathers want to fulfil their caring responsibilities for their children
  • The Government’s flagship policy of Shared Parental Leave, introduced in 2015, is likely to have little impact, with a predicted take-up rate of just 2-8%
The terms of reference for the Fathers and the workplace inquiry can be found here.
 
Evidence taken as part of the inquiry can be found here.


Read more

In 2016, Fawcett carried out the largest ever survey on the interaction between work and care in the UK and  how it affects gender inequality. Our findings showed that 72% of dads look for flexible work, but 35% of employed dads of under 18s say men in their workplace who take time off to care for children are not supported.

Read the full report here