Government respond to 'Fathers and the workplace' report

Government respond to ‘Fathers and the workplace’ report

We have previously reported on the Committee’s report that was published in March 2018 ‘Fathers and the workplace’, which called for new measures on paternity leave and pay, shared parental leave, the right to flexible working, workplace rights and driving cultural change.

The Government has now responded to this report saying that it wants a public debate about funding workplace support for dads. However, it has rejected most of the recommendations which were suggested to modernise the workplace and policies for 21st century families.

You can read the Government response here.

In summary, the following was addressed in the report:

  • Paternity leave and pay. The government stated that it was unlikely to follow the Committee's recommendation of providing employed fathers with two weeks’ paternity leave as a day-one right (as it currently is for maternity pay). It noted that maternity leave was in a unique category as it gave women the time to physically recover from childbirth. The government said it would seek more views on paternity leave and pay in a forthcoming Maternity and Paternity Rights Survey.
  • Shared parental leave and pay. The government said that further consultation was needed before they could accept the Committee's recommendation of an additional 12-week paternal leave entitlement (to be taken in the first year), which would replace the current shared parental leave system. It said that the current system was still "relatively new and has had little time to bed in".
  • Time off and flexible working. The government rejected the Committee's 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. Regarding flexible working, it stated that a taskforce had been created to examine whether all new jobs should be advertised as flexible by default in advance of the evaluation of the right to request flexible working in 2019.
  • The Government would await the outcome of the Maternity and Paternity Rights Survey before it considered whether "paternity" should be a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

In dismissing the recommendations of the Committee the Government has not put forward alternative solutions. It is also interesting to note that the response does not refer to the Government’s 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%.

The Committee Chair, Maria Miller MP, commented that

The Government has previously voiced good intentions when it comes to family friendly policies but the response to our report is a missed opportunity. Dads are calling for change and the Gender Pay Gap will not be tackled until dads get the support they need to support their children too. Our inquiry heard from a range of well-informed voices including employers, unions and fathers themselves. Many cited the poor take up of key initiatives such as Shared Parental Leave as sign they are not working. It is regrettable that more of this evidence base has not been acted upon.  

We will keep you updated on further developments in this area.  If you require any advice around family friendly rights then please do call the Employment team.