By Jasmin Gray
The government has been accused of failing new fathers who want to stay at home with their children, with critical MPs declaring: “Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers this week, apparently you matter less.”
The criticism comes after the government offered a “lukewarm” response to a report by the Women and Equalities Committee which found that workplace policies are pushing new dads back to their jobs, forcing women to take on childcare duties and undermining attempts to tackle the gender pay gap.
MPs called for a series of changes – including 90% pay for fathers on paternity leave and standalone 12-week period of leave for new dads – to “better balance their parental responsibilities and work and to ensure they meet the needs of the 21st century family”.
But a response from the government published on Thursday dismissed many of the committee’s suggestions, saying there is already “a lot of work underway” to tackle the issue.
Acknowledging that there is “much more to be done”, the report said the long term solution to the issue lies in “promoting and securing a wider social change”.
It said: “Many of the committee’s recommendations are far reaching, would involve a radical change in policy direction or, as is the case with issues around employment status, sit with other complex issues where parallel work is underway.”
In 2015, the government introduced shared parental leave, which allows parents to divide 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay during the first year of their child’s life.
Labour MP Jess Phillips – who sits on the committee – said she was “really disappointed” by the government’s “lukewarm response to the recommendations”.
The Women and Equalities Committee report, which was published in March, also called for workplace rights to be standardised for self-employed fathers and agency workers, saying that the government should create new laws making all jobs as flexible as possible.
“Current social policy is basically based on the 1950s principle of parenthood and gains such as shared parental leave have been limited,” Phillips told HuffPost UK.
“I see no reason why fathers shouldn’t have equal treatment as mothers and am disappointed that the government still seem to think that caring is a woman’s responsibility. It is 2018.
“Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers this week, apparently you matter less.”
Meanwhile committee chair Maria Miller called the government’s reaction to the report “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,” she said.
“It is also surprising that the government’s response does not refer to its 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%.”
A report published by think-tank the Social Market Foundation on Tuesday found that working mothers earn almost 20% less than working fathers 10 years after the birth of their first child.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of women’s equality charity the Fawcett Society, said the government must address “one of the biggest inequalities in our society”.
“We need nothing short of a revolution in our approach to leave for dads and yet what we have is a government in denial,” she said. “This is not the 1950s.
“Until we create a longer, better paid period of use it or lose it leave for fathers which they can afford to take we won’t make any meaningful progress on closing the pay gap and pregnancy discrimination will continue to be an everyday occurrence.”