Recently, the Government’s Women and Equalities Committee published a report on fathers in the workplace. According to the report, policies currently in place to support fathers in the workplace are unable to deliver what they promise. It is, therefore, important for the Government to reform these workplace policies under employment law, making sure that they better support working dads, who are taking care of their children.
The report concludes that despite having good intentions, the right to request flexible working has been unable to create the desired cultural change and the Government itself admits that its flagship shared parental leave scheme will prove insufficient in meeting its objective for most working fathers.
Supporting cultural shifts
The report specifies that an increasing number of employed fathers, nowadays, want to participate more and equally share the responsibilities of childcare (especially during their child’s infancy).
The current policies, however, are not flexible enough to support them in doing so. One of the main reasons behind this is the outdated mindset of the employers about the roles of fathers and mothers, relating to childcare and workplace.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to support cultural shifts and reform current policies to include statutory paternity pay, flexible working and parental leave.
Ensuring fairness and tackling fears
Nowadays, the attitude of working fathers is radically changing when it comes to taking care of their children. Not only are they carrying out a greater share of childcare responsibilities than before, they are doing so with lesser concessions at the workplace than those given to mothers.
While working mothers face pregnancy discrimination and other forms of gender discrimination at work, working fathers are unable to voice their concerns relating to leaves or flexible working around the time of their child’s birth.
Due to the prevalent macho culture and the fear of possibly harming their career prospects, most working fathers choose to grind in silence at the workplace. Therefore, it is important that fathers of all income groups have an equal chance to bond with their children, as mothers. To do that, a culture shift is as important as the need for family-friendly government policies.
Need for new parental leave reforms
The Women and Equalities Committee report comes as a wakeup call, even as the deadline approaches for gender pay gap reporting.
The Government finally recognises the fact that the fathers need to take up a more active role in taking care of their children. This way, it will become easier for the legislature to end the ‘gender pay gap’.
Having said that, there are a number of notable recommendations in the Women and Equalities Committee report, therefore, recommending a number of comprehensive measures including:
- Introduction of statutory paternity pay (90 percent of the father’s pay, which is capped for higher earners) so that all working fathers can be at home at the time of their child’s birth;
- Consider the cost and benefits of replacing the shared parental leave with a new policy of 12 weeks of standalone fathers’ leave (in the child’s first year);
- Immediate legislation for all jobs to be advertised as flexible, unless there are serious business implications for doing so;
- Harmonising workplace rights for fathers, especially those who are self-employed or working as agency workers, with those for employed fathers.
There is a historical lack of support for men in the workplace when it comes to childcare and paternity leaves. Overall, there are several negative cultural assumptions and gender discrimination that persist even now.
While the Government can only take positive steps forwards and introduce newer reform in employment law, it is also the onus of employers to redesign workplace policies so that they can keep up with the social changes in people’s everyday lives.
Outdated assumptions and negative cultural impacts the roles of working men. Women are some of the main reasons working fathers are let down in the workplace.
Unlike working female employees, male employees are more hesitant about voicing their needs and aspirations related to childcare. This needs to change. Both women and men must have equality whether at work or at home. Through effective policy-making and implementation, employers can meet the needs of families and tackle gender inequalities.