The government has recently published a response to the Women and Equalities Committee report on Fathers and the Workplace.
In March 2018, the Women and Equalities Committee published a report, Fathers and the Workplace, calling on the government to make improvements to fathers’ rights at work. This included, for example, removing the qualifying period for paternity leave to make it a right “day one” from the first day of employment, and increasing the rate of statutory paternity pay to 90% of earnings.
The government has now published its response, addressing:
- Paternity leave and pay. The government’s position is that it is unlikely to follow the Committee’s recommendation of providing employed fathers with two weeks’ paternity leave as a right from day one of employment (as it currently is for maternity pay). Currently, fathers must have been employed for a qualifying period before being entitled to such time off. The government explained that maternity leave was in a unique category given its primary purpose was to allow women the time to physically recover from childbirth. The government did however state that 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 considers that further consultation was needed before it could accept the Committee’s recommendation of 12-week paternal leave entitlement in the first year of birth (to replace the current complex and under-used shared parental leave system). The government feels that the current system is still new and requires more time to bed in.
- Time off and flexible working. The government rejected a suggestion that employed fathers be entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments as a day-one right. It insisted that the current policy struck a fair balance between the interests of fathers and the interests of employers. In relation to flexible working, the government 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.
Finally, the government said it will await the outcome of the Maternity and Paternity Rights Survey before considering whether “paternity” should be added as a further protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.