Yesterday the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched proposals for a fundamental change in parental leave, giving mothers and fathers greater support in bringing up children.

The Commission says that the changes will help tackle the gender pay-gap, bring greater support and social benefits to parents and children, and show modern ways of working are better for the economy.

In a speech to mark the launch of its report, Working Better, Nicola Brewer, the Commission’s Chief Executive, argued that over the past decade increases in maternity leave have brought welcome support for mothers.

The report reveals findings from a major survey of 4,500 parents. They show high levels of demand for new flexible working practices to support families from all income groups – including new ways of allowing fathers to spend more time with their children.

The report also calls for higher levels of maternity and paternity pay to increase uptake, particularly among men, lone parents and lower income groups. Nicola Brewer, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said ‘Flexibility is a tool many British businesses use to unlock talent. Changing the way we approach parental leave could be one way of tackling the gender pay gap.’
While the Commission doesn’t believe the ‘right to request’ should become a ‘right to have’, the Commission is calling for:

  • the right to request flexible working should be extended to everyone, not just parents
  • the 26 week employment eligibility criteria for requesting flexible hours should be repealed
  • the introduction of a formal right to request a return to full-time work after a previous change in working hours
  • the investment in training and guidance for managers to introduce flexibility in the workplace, as well as further efforts to promote flexible working