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The equality of parenting

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In the week after Father’s Day in the UK, insurance provider Aviva commissioned a report into Shared Parental Leave (SPL) polling 1,000 fathers and 1,000 mothers with children aged 16 and under nationwide. Despite the legislation on SPL being in force since 2015 and the recent government campaign “Share the Joy”, intended to raise awareness (which we talked about here), half of working fathers haven’t heard of SPL. This is particularly disappointing as nine out of 10 parents are reported as believing mums and dads should be given equal parental leave.

The results of the report tell us that 86 per cent of fathers would have liked to take more time off at the arrival of their children, but felt restricted by financial factors and employer constraints. The report’s authors at Aviva commit to an equal parental leave policy entitling male and female employees to 26 weeks each on full basic pay on the arrival of a child. However, not all employers have equalised their offering.

In the “2018 Modern Families Index Summary Report”, Working Families (the UK’s work-life balance charity) recommends “day one” parental and paternity leave rights in new employment, as well as properly paid, extended, standalone paternity leave for fathers, in an effort to tackle gendered assumptions about who works and who cares for children. Linking this to improving the gender pay gap, Working Families suggests that improved paternity leave will mean that fathers will be more likely to use it and thereafter be more involved in their children’s care throughout their life, having a knock-on effect on the participation and remuneration of women in the workforce.

Despite these findings the government has, regrettably, recently announced that, whilst it accepts the need for change in this area, calls by the Women and Equalities Committee for new measures on paternity leave and pay, SPL and driving cultural change have been roundly rejected. The Chair of the Committee, Maria Miller MP, said: “It is surprising that the government’s response does not refer to its own recently published research on the gender pay gap which found that if men and women took similar amounts of unpaid family leave the gender pay gap would decrease by 13 per cent … we will continue to press for reform.”

If you need any advice around family-friendly working policies and/or improving your organisation’s gender pay gap, please get in touch with your contact at Dentons.