The House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee has published a report, Fathers and the workplace, calling on the government to make a number of improvements to fathers’ rights at work. The committee believes that current policies are not keeping up with social changes, and that enabling fathers to play a greater role caring for babies will also help address the causes of the gender pay gap.
The report noted there is evidence to suggests the low level of statutory paternity pay (SPP) is a barrier to uptake, with low earners half as likely to take paternity leave as high earners. It recommends that the government should conduct a survey on take-up of paternity leave and pay, including where there are multiple births or the mother or baby is in hospital for an extended period. It should also survey the take-up of unpaid parental leave and time off for dependants as there is a lack of official data. It also made a number of suggestions for legislative change:
- Remove the qualifying period for paternity leave to make it a “day one” right. Increase SPP to 90% of earnings (subject to a cap for high earners) and give self-employed fathers a “paternity allowance”.
- Give fathers a day one right to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments and consider increasing the limit of two appointments. Agency workers should be entitled to unpaid time off from day one, and paid time off after 12 weeks.
- Consider replacing the cumbersome shared parental leave system (which is not achieving its aims and exists for most people “on paper only”) with an additional 12-week paternal leave entitlement, to be taken in the first year. This would be paid at 90% (capped) for four weeks and at statutory levels for eight weeks, and would not affect the mother’s maternity leave or pay.
- Bring forward legislation to ensure that all new jobs are advertised as flexible by default, unless there are immediate strong business reasons against it.
- Consider amending the Equality Act 2010 to make “paternity” a protected characteristic, and take steps to change negative workplace attitudes towards fathers’ participation in childcare.
You can read more about working parents here.