The Women and Equalities Committee has carried out research into the support offered to working fathers to allow them to meet, and share, family and childcare responsibilities with their partners. The key finding of the report is that the government needs to carry out a reform to current workplace policies to offer them greater support.
The report states that, despite the best intentions of the government, the right to request flexible working and right to take shared parental leave have not created the cultural change they were intended to. The Committee welcomes the government’s ‘Share the joy’ campaign to promote shared parental leave and increase awareness of the scheme, however, they suggest the campaign will not be sufficient to create a significant change.
The report contains key recommendations to help secure real change for working fathers including:
- the right to take paid time off work to attend antenatal appointments should become a day-one right for fathers. The government should also examine whether the entitlement to time off for two appointments provides the father with sufficient opportunity to support the mother where there are multiple babies
- statutory paternity pay should be increased from the statutory rate (currently £140.98 per week but increasing to £145.18 in April 2018) to 90 per cent of the father’s pay
- a new policy of 12 weeks’ leave for fathers to take during the child’s first year should be considered
- legislation to be introduced to make it a requirement to advertise all jobs as flexible from day one, unless there are objective business reasons not to do so
- action to be taken to harmonise workplace rights between fathers who are employees, agency workers and self-employed
- to review whether a cultural change can be aided by introducing a protected characteristic of ‘paternity’ in the Equality Act 2010.
The government itself has commented that encouraging, and supporting, working fathers to take an active role in the care of their children is a key way of removing the gender pay gap.
As these are only recommendations, it will remain to be seen whether any of these are adopted. Organisations who wish to provide additional support for fathers in their workplace can carry out a review of their current policies, such as flexible working and shared parental leave. Providing additional rights over and above the statutory, such as increasing the amount of pay payable to those taking shared parental leave, could increase take up among working fathers. Increasing awareness and communication around these initiatives may also have a positive effect.