The recommendation forms part of the Committee’s Fathers and the workplace report, published on Tuesday 20 March 2018, which sets out proposals on how the government can begin to reform workplace policies to ensure they better support working parents in the 21st century, especially fathers.
In the report, the Committee suggests that the government should consider the costs and benefits of introducing a new policy of 12 weeks’ standalone fathers’ leave in a child’s first year as an alternative to shared parental leave. It recommends this should be paid at 90% of salary for of the first four weeks, with a cap for higher earners, and the remaining eight weeks would be paid at statutory levels.
In addition, the Committee states that the government should legislate for all jobs to be advertised as open to flexible working arrangements from day one, unless there is a solid business reason that this is not possible and that statutory paternity pay should be set at 90% of fathers’ pay to ensure all fathers can afford to take time off when their child is born.
The report further recommends that the government considers whether the entitlement for fathers to attend two antenatal appointments is sufficiently supportive for parents of multiple babies or where other factors could mean additional appointments are required.
The Committee proposes that the government should also harmonise workplace rights for fathers who are agency workers or self-employed with employed fathers where practical, for example by introducing a paternity allowance similar to the maternity allowance.
Maria Miller MP, chair of Women and Equalities Committee, 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 forward 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 Outdated assumptions about men’s and women’s roles in relation to work and childcare are a further barrier to change.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.
Gavin Shuker MP, committee member on the Women and Equalities Committee, added: “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 at 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 [employee], 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.”
Sarah Jackson OBE, chief executive officer at Working Families, said: “For years mothers have downgraded their careers, and now fathers, desperate to take an active part in family life, are beginning to do the same, saying ‘no’ to a new job or turning down a promotion. This ‘parenthood penalty’ must be reversed.
“Introducing the Committee’s key recommendations, properly paid paternity leave that’s a day one right for fathers, and introducing paternity allowance for self-employed fathers, for example, would send a strong signal from government about the integral role of fathers in their child’s first year.
“There’s no reason why the Committee’s call for new, extended paternity leave shouldn’t be introduced alongside rather than in place of the shared parental leave scheme, offering maximum choice to families.
“Crucially, the Committee recognises that efforts to enable father involvement will fail if, upon their return to work, fathers cannot work part-time or flexibly because those jobs simply aren’t available and their workplace culture is hostile to their ambition to share care of their children. Building on the Prime Minister’s call for flexibility by default, the Committee’s call for legislation to help bring this about is welcome.”