The Government must reform workplace policies to ensure they meet the needs of the 21st century family and to better support working dads in caring for their children, say MPs.
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.
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 also 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.
Finally, the committee recommends that 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 and 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 Outdated assumptions about men’s and women’s roles in relation to work and childcare are a further barrier to change.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.”
Chloe Chambraud, Gender Equality Director, Business in the Community, said:
“We fully agree that fathers do not currently get enough support from their employers to take on a greater share of caring responsibilities. Too often they are restricted from doing so by unhelpful gender stereotypes and the image of the idealised worker, completely devoted to his (full-time) job and unencumbered by family responsibilities. As a result, work-life balance is increasingly a source of stress for fathers, and millennial fathers are particularly frustrated by how much work impacts on 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% more domestic labour than men and that mothers take on 74% of childcare. As a result, the burden of care limits women’s progression at work, with many women feeling pushed into lower-paid, part-time roles in order to find a better balance. This represents a significant loss of talent – both male and female – for employers that do not adapt.
“The original enquiry from the Committee pointed to a real gap in research which Business in the Community is trying to address with its ground-breaking new Equal Lives project, in partnership with Santander UK. As part of this project we are currently running a national survey to find out more about the issues facing working men with caring responsibilities. The survey is open until 11 May, and I would encourage all men to take part. Their experiences will help us to shape recommendations for business and create workplaces that work for everyone.”
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