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Existing Family Friendly Policies are Failing Fathers

A recent report from Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee has concluded that working fathers are currently being let down in the workplace by policies designed to support them in balancing work and family life. 

It found 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. The Committee has called for reforms of these policies to ensure they meet the needs of the 21st century family and to better support working dads in caring for their children.

As well as letting down working fathers, the Committee says its findings are disappointing because supporting fathers to take a more active role in caring for their children is a key way of ending the gender pay gap.

Recommendations for Reform

Recommendations for reform put forward by the Committee include:

  • 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.

Policies Based on Outdated Assumptions

"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,” explained Chair of the Committee, Maria Miller MP. “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,” she said. “Outdated assumptions about men's and women's roles in relation to work and childcare are a further barrier to change.”

“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," she added.

Policy Re-think Required

Equality organisation the Fawcett Society has welcomed the Committee’s report.

“We need a radical re-think of our parental leave system,” commented Chief Executive Sam Smethers. “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 three months’ reserved ‘daddy leave’,” she added. “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”.

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For expert legal advice on these issues, and other areas of employment law, then contact our specialist employment law solicitors today.

Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0.

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