News MPs urge ‘daddy leave’ for fathers, and 90 per cent statutory paternity pay

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The women and equalities committee has urged changes to what it called outdated workplace policies that reinforced rather than challenged traditional gender roles and undermined government objectives.

In a new report, Fathers and the workplace, the committee proposed reforms to parental policies to ‘better serve’ fathers – particularly those on lower incomes – who want to take more of an equal share in raising their child, while also supporting women back to work, in an attempt to narrow the gender pay gap.

Part of a wider inquiry into fathers at work, the committee said current policies supporting fathers in the workplace “do not deliver what they promise, despite good intentions”, as it called for new legislation and suggested changes to paternity pay and levels of parental leave.

The committee has recommended that the government considers the costs and benefits of introducing a new policy of 12 weeks’ standalone fathers’ leave in a child’s first year – as an alternative to shared parental leave – when it reviews the policy this year.

“We are particularly pleased to see the committee recommend three months’ reserved ‘daddy leave’,” said Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive.

“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.”

The report also recommended increasing statutory paternity pay to 90 per cent of earnings to ensure all fathers, regardless of income, can be at home after the birth of a child.

And it proposed harmonising workplace rights for fathers who are agency workers – or self-employed – with those of employed fathers.

“We believe that now is the time to take the next bold step in developing policies that will create real change in the lives of fathers and mothers,” the report stated.

“Incremental changes to the key policy expected to drive change will not meet the needs of younger generations of parents in particular.”

Chloé Chambraud, gender equality director at Business in the Community, said that too often fathers are restricted from taking on greater caring responsibilities by “unhelpful gender stereotypes” and the image of the idealised worker, causing stress and frustration in their family lives.

“However, these stereotypes affect not only fathers and male carers, but women and employers too. We know that women still do 60 per cent more domestic labour than men and that mothers take on 74 per cent of childcare,” said Chambraud.

“As a result, the burden of care limits women’s progression at work, with many women feeling pushed into lower-paid, part-time roles to find a better balance. This represents a significant loss of talent – both male and female – for employers that do not adapt.”

The report suggested that by allowing fathers to take greater responsibility for childcare and giving women the opportunity to rejoin the workplace, the gender pay gap will also be reduced.

This mirrors a previous report into the gender pay gap in which the women and equalities committee stated that as long as women continue to take the majority of responsibility for childcare and other forms of unpaid caring, pay differentials will persist.

Despite these recommendations, the government has previously rejected similar proposals, leading to accusations from the committee that the government is failing to effectively tackle the causes of the gender pay gap.

One such recommendation the committee previously outlined – and reiterated in this report – was for all jobs to be advertised as ‘flexible’ from day one, unless there were solid business reasons not to.

“The committee recognises that efforts to enable father involvement will fail if, upon their return to work, fathers cannot work part time or flexibly because those jobs simply aren’t available and their workplace culture is hostile to their ambition to share care of their children,” said Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families.

The chair of the committee, Maria Miller MP, said effective policies around statutory paternity pay, parental leave and flexible working were all vital “if we are to meet the needs of families and tackle the gender pay gap”.

But committee member Gavin Shuker MP added that family-friendly government policies were unlikely to be effective without a cultural shift.

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