Fathers and the workplace Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.The Government has accepted the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices’ recommendation that all employees and workers should be given a written statement of rights on day one of their job and says it is consulting on what should be included. We ask the Government to ensure that this statement includes all parental benefits. (Paragraph 17)

Antenatal appointments

2.There is a statutory right to time off for ante-natal appointments but some employers may be putting hurdles in the way of fathers exercising this right. Fathers should not be prevented from attending appointments because they cannot afford to do so, are not aware that they have this right or because their employer does not allow them to. (Paragraph 34)

3.Fathers who are employees should be entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments as a day-one right. Agency worker fathers should be entitled to unpaid time off to attend antenatal appointments as a day-one right, and to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments once they have been with the same company for 12 weeks. The Government should consider whether the entitlement to attend two appointments is sufficiently supportive for parents of multiple babies or where other factors mean additional appointments are required. (Paragraph 35)

Paternity leave and pay

4.Paternity leave and pay have the potential to meet the Government’s objective of supporting fathers to be at home around the time of their child’s birth, but they need updating to meet the needs of the modern family in a changing workforce. (Paragraph 44)

5. We recognise the different policy objectives of maternity leave and paternity leave, but we are not convinced that this should mean that expectant fathers should not have a day-one entitlement to paternity leave in a new job. The current qualifying criteria risk reinforcing a message that parenting is a less important role for fathers than for mothers. Nor do we believe that fathers who are agency workers or who are self-employed should be left without access to financial support at the time of the birth of their children. (Paragraph 45)

6.Fathers who are employees should be eligible for two weeks’ paternity leave as a day-one right, similar to maternity leave. Fathers who are agency workers should be eligible for paternity pay with the same eligibility requirements as agency worker mothers have for maternity pay. Self-employed fathers should be eligible for a Paternity Allowance, similar to Maternity Allowance. (Paragraph 46)

7.We do not believe that the Government’s objective of supporting fathers to share care can be met if paternity pay is so low that better-off fathers are more able to take time off at the start of their child’s life. This militates against the Government’s aim that fathers should be able to have time with their new child. We reiterate the recommendation of our predecessor Committee in its report on the gender pay gap that two weeks’ paternity leave should be paid at 90 per cent of earnings (capped), similar to maternity pay which is paid for six weeks at 90 per cent (uncapped). (Paragraph 50)

8.We recommend that the new edition of the Maternity and Paternity Rights Survey should gather evidence about:

Shared parental leave and pay

9.The Government’s objective is for mothers and fathers to share the task of caring for their children more equally. The current shared parental leave policy will not achieve this on a large scale, as the Government’s own estimates of take-up show. The review of shared parental leave in 2018 presents an opportunity to look at ways of improving the policy, but also to consider alternative models which would better meet the Government’s objectives. The evidence we have received indicates that a dedicated period of leave for fathers could create change on the scale the Government wants in the longer term. (Paragraph 82)

10.We recommend that, as part of its review of shared parental leave in 2018, the Government undertake an analysis of the costs and benefits of an alternative policy of 12 weeks paternal leave and pay to replace shared parental leave. This should include the following elements:

11.We acknowledge that the initial costs of implementing such a policy would be considerable. The Government’s analysis should separate out the costs of each of the features we have outlined, and set out how variable take-up and imposing caps on pay at different levels would affect these costs. There would, however, also be potential for significant gains to the public purse in the long term, and we ask the Government to set out and take into account a comprehensive list of these factors in its costing. Among the likely benefits would be:

12.We accept that the alternative policy we have outlined would not, on its own, replicate the current option of fathers being the primary carer in the child’s first year, but we have seen no evidence that any but a very small proportion of families would be able to or choose to do this under shared parental leave as currently designed. For most families, this is an offer on paper only. Instead, our suggested alternative policy could offer a much larger proportion of fathers the option of taking a significant period of leave in the child’s first year which could have a far wider impact on fathers’ caring and domestic responsibilities, on mothers’ participation in the workplace and on longer-term cultural change. (Paragraph 85)

The right to request flexible working

13.The Government told us that a review of the right to request flexible working will be carried out in 2019 with a response to this assessment in 2020 or 2021. The Prime Minister, however, has already echoed the call of our predecessor Committee for all jobs to be made available on flexible terms by default. (Paragraph 97)

14.We believe that fathers should not have to wait up to four more years to have access to working arrangements that support their parenting responsibilities, and nor should their families. The cultural factors that militate against fathers asking for flexible arrangements and that make employers less likely to grant such arrangements to fathers are more likely to be overcome if flexible working becomes the new default. We recommend that the Government brings forward legislation now to make real the Prime Minister’s intention to ensure that all new jobs are available for flexible working, unless the employer can demonstrate an immediate and continuing business case against doing so. (Paragraph 98)

Unpaid parental leave and time off for dependants

15.Unpaid parental leave and time off for dependants (emergency leave) have the potential to form an important part of the range of workplace policies supporting fathers to fulfil their childcare responsibilities. However, the Government does not gather data on use of these provisions, so it is unclear whether or not its objectives for these policies are being met. We have real concerns that the policies are undermined by a lack of awareness, amongst both employers and employees. (Paragraph 104)

16.The Government should collect age and sex-disaggregated data on the take-up, and reason for take-up, of unpaid parental leave and time off for dependants in order to be able to assess the effectiveness of these policies for fathers and mothers. (Paragraph 105)

Changing the culture on fathers in the workplace

17.The Government has told us that it is determined to influence the social attitudes that prevent more fathers spending more time caring for their children. Its campaign to promote shared parental leave is welcome, but does not constitute a plan of action for achieving wider societal change. Without bolder policy design and a long-term campaign to change attitudes in workplaces and in wider society, the potential for achieving the Government’s ambition of shared care appears to be limited. (Paragraph 115)

18.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’, looking at what period such a characteristic would cover and to which groups of working fathers it would apply. (Paragraph 116)

15 March 2018