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Shared Parental Leave not delivering for new fathers

Cherry Reynard
Written By:
Cherry Reynard

Government efforts to support fathers in the workplace have not yet delivered, says a report from MPs on the Women and Equalities Committee.

The authors of the report talked to employer organisations, unions, researchers, think-tanks and experts, and fathers and mothers themselves, and stated: “The current policies supporting fathers in the workplace do not deliver what they promise, despite good intentions. This is particularly the case for less well-off fathers.

“The right to request flexible working has not created the necessary cultural change in the workplace and the government itself told us that its Shared Parental Leave policy, intended to allow fathers to share care in their child’s first year, will not meet its objective for most fathers.”

Shared Parental Leave figures obtained by via a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showed that in 2016/17, employers claimed Statutory Shared Parental Pay in respect of around 8,700 parents. This is in spite of research from the charity Working Families showing over half of young fathers would rather downshift at work to accommodate family life.

In 2015/16 HM Revenue & Customs received claims for a total of around 6,200 parents for either the Statutory Shared Parental Pay or Statutory Additional Paternity Pay (HMRC records don’t distinguish between the two).

The report made a number of recommendations to ensure that the rules are working to create a more equal playing field for parents:

  • Fathers who are employees should be entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments as a day-one right
  • Statutory paternity pay should be paid at 90% of the father’s pay (capped for higher earners) to ensure that all fathers, regardless of income, can be at home around the time of their child’s birth
  • The government should consider the costs and benefits of introducing a new policy of 12 weeks’ dedicated leave for fathers in the child’s first year to replace Shared Parental Leave when it reviews this policy in 2018
  • The government should seek to 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
  • The government should act now to harmonise workplace rights for fathers who are agency workers or self-employed with those for employed fathers where practical
  • To help drive the cultural change in the workplace that the government wishes to see, it should consider the benefits of amending the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 to add an additional characteristic of ‘paternity’.