The government has responded to recommendations made by a parliamentary committee earlier this year on how to improve take up of paternity rights by fathers, which are currently low. For example, recently published research on the gender pay gap found that if men and women took similar amounts of unpaid family leave the gender pay gap would decrease by 13%.
However, the government’s response has been largely to reject out of hand or, put off making a decision about, the recommendations made by the Women and Equalities Committee in its earlier report (Fathers and the workplace, published on 20 March 2018).
While the government appears to accept the need for change in its response, it fails to deliver on the specifics, namely:
- Shared parental leave and pay. The government said that further consultation was needed before they could accept the recommendation to replace the current shared parental leave system with an additional 12-week paternal leave entitlement. It said that the current system was still “relatively new and has had little time to bed in”.
- Paternity leave and pay. The government stated that it was unlikely to follow the recommendation of providing employed fathers with two weeks’ paternity leave as a day-one right (as it currently is for maternity pay). It said it would seek more views on paternity leave and pay in a forthcoming Maternity and Paternity Rights Survey.
- Time off and flexible working. The government rejected the suggestion that employed fathers should be entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments as a day-one right, insisting that the current policy struck the correct balance between the rights of fathers and employers. On flexible working, it stated that a taskforce had been created to examine whether all new jobs should be advertised as flexible by default.