Fathers miss out on equal childcare due to workplace rules

Fathers wanting to take an equal share of looking after young children are being failed by workplace policies, the Westminster Government is being warned.

Many fathers find it difficult to take time off to share childcare, a report finds.

MPs called for better support for working fathers to help them care for their children.

The Women and Equalities Committee said despite good intentions, policies aimed at helping fathers are not delivering what they promise, especially for less well-off workers.

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A report said the right to request flexible working had not created the necessary cultural change, while the Government had admitted its flagship shared parental leave scheme will not meet its objective for most fathers.

The MPs made a series of recommendations, including setting statutory paternity pay at 90 per cent of a father’s wages, capped for higher earners, and a new policy of 12 weeks leave for a father in a child’s first year as an alternative to shared leave.

The Government was also urged to legislate immediately to make sure all jobs are advertised as flexible from day one unless there was a solid business reason not to.

Maria Miller, who chairs the committee said: “The evidence is clear, an increasing number of fathers want to take a more equal share of childcare when their children are young but current policies do not support them in doing so.”

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “Boosting paternity pay to 90 per cent of earnings and extending paid time off would mean hundreds of thousands more dads could afford to spend time with their new baby, and agency workers and self-employed dads should get the same rights too.

“It’s disappointing that the proposals still wouldn’t give pregnant women and prospective dads who are agency workers the right to paid time off for antenatal appointments.”

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society said: “We need a radical re-think of our parental leave system.

“The antiquated assumption that dad goes back to work while mum stays home to look after the baby bears no relation to what most parents in the UK want.

“Yet our parental leave system is still driven by a 1950s model of family life.”

A Business Department spokesman said: “The Government is determined to ensure everyone can succeed in the workplace, which is why we recently announced new protections for millions of workers, as well as promoting current employment rights.

“We have also launched a campaign to encourage more parents to take up shared parental leave so they can better balance childcare and their careers and we are launching a task force to review how the right to request flexible working is currently being applied.

“We welcome the committee’s report in this important area of work. We will consider it fully and respond in due course.”

Equality and Human Rights Commission chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said: “We need new ideas for better equality at work that will support fathers to take on the caring roles that we know they increasingly want.

“We need to seriously shake up our workplace culture and offer flexible working for all from day one, looking beyond women as the primary caregivers and considering both parents’ roles at work and home.”