Improve shared parental leave to cut gender pay gap, urge MPs
Cross-party group of MPs calls for three months of non-transferable paid paternal leave and a strategy for low-paid jobs
The government must do more to improve the sharing of parental leave if it wants to reduce the gender pay gap, a cross-party group of almost 50 MPs has urged in a letter backed by women’s and family charities.
Organised by the Labour MP David Lammy, the letter to Justine Greening – who is minister for women and equalities as well as being education secretary – warns that the gender pay gap will never be tackled as long as women end up with disproportionate responsibility for childcare.
The letter, signed predominantly by Lammy’s Labour colleagues but also a handful of Conservative MPs as well as those from the Scottish National party, Liberal Democrats and Greens, follows a report last month by the women and equalities committee.
The cross-party committee had said ministers’ decision to reject a series of recommendations, including three months’ paid paternity leave, and strategies for low-paid jobs largely done by women in areas such as care, cleaning and retail, meant the pay gap was unlikely to close.
The letter says the MPs were “very disappointed” that the recommendations had been rejected, and by the low takeup of parental leave shared between mothers and fathers.
“We are particularly worried about gendered working culture that means that many men are worried that taking leave will be viewed negatively by their employer and limit their career,” they wrote.
“As the women and equalities committee report on the gender pay gap found, shared parental leave – the flagship policy in supporting parents to share care – is ‘predicted to make little difference to behaviour’.”
The letter calls for three months of non-transferable paid paternal leave for the second parent, as well as other measures to help both in practical terms and in “shifting cultural attitudes”.
Lammy, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on fatherhood, said it was “blindingly obvious” that progress on gender equality in and out of work was closely linked to having shared parental leave in place.
“The evidence is clear: fathers want to be more engaged. They want to spend more time with their children and they want to share the burden of parenthood equally, but they are worried that this will mean that they lose out at work and that their employer will penalise them,” he said.
Sam Smethers, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society charity, which campaigns for women’s rights, said the government needed “to catch up with the reality of family life”.
She said: “Fathers want to spend more time caring for their children but our outdated leave system holds them back. Addressing unequal caring roles will help tackle one of the most significant causes of the gender pay gap.”
A government spokesman said: “Shared parental leave gives working families more choice and flexibility, helping to close the gender pay gap and enable fathers to play a more active role in caring for their children.
“This government is committed to working with business and other groups to promote its benefits and help change attitudes on shared parenting.
“This is still a very new policy, which the government will continue to evaluate. The committee’s recommendations will form a part of that evaluation.”
Original Source – Peter Walker, The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/28/improve-shared-parental-leave-to-cut-gender-pay-gap-urge-mps