On Tuesday (20 March), the Women and Equalities select committee issued a report calling for a reform of parental leave to redress the gender pay gap.

The issues surrounding the low take up of Shared Parental Leave (SPL)  have been the subject of much debate since its introduction in 2015. The idea, introduced by the last Coalition government, was that if women could share their maternity leave (and pay) with their partners, that this would increase the position of women in the workplace and address issues surrounding equal pay.

Kathryn Fielder, senior associate in the employment team, commented:

“Sadly the take up of SPL has been a lamentably low 2%, so this initiative from the Women and Equalities select committee is attempting to resolve this via a different route. They aim to redress the balance in childcare and make it more culturally acceptable for men to take up to 12 weeks during the first year of their child’s life. They hope that this will help to redress the gender pay gap, reflect changes in society and hopefully lead to a better and fairer society as it improves men’s relationships with their children.

“However as with all headline initiatives, the devil is going to be in the detail and it remains to be seen what exactly will be offered and how this will be taken up. No doubt, as with SPL, one significant factor will be pay. One of the recommendations of the select committee is that fathers receive 90% of pay (capped for high earners) for four of the 12 weeks leave which may well have a significant effect on its uptake. They also recommend that all jobs are advertised as flexible from day one, thereby effectively forcing employers to offer flexible working. They hope that this should in time make it more professionally and culturally acceptable for men to ask for time off as it will be seen as more normal for them to do so.”

Whether this will be desirable by their employers of course remains to be seen and in the absence of financial assistance from the government, that remains to be seen.

The results of this report will be published later in the year.

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