Mothers are still being discriminated against: what does this tell us about Shared Parental Leave?30 Jan 2017
Recent press reports suggest that the Business Minister has launched a consultation on the need to bolster workplace protections for women who are pregnant or on maternity leave. Here, Mark Clayton, employment solicitor for Kuits, offers his thoughts on what he thinks this says about the success of the recently introduced Shared Parental Leave legislation.
“In 2015, the government introduced its Shared Parental Leave legislation, aimed at giving parents more flexibility to share the care of their child during the first 12 months. Under the rules, both parents can share up to 50 weeks leave.
“Whilst aimed, in part, at encouraging shared childcare responsibility, research among 200 employers by the firm My Family Care found that only 0.5% to 1% of male workers had taken shared parental leave. Other reports suggest that there is still a stigma around men taking time off for childcare.
“It isn’t only these statistics that indicate that the Shared Parental Leave rights have been a bit of a damp squib – the focus of the recent headlines on discrimination against mothers provides yet more evidence. If the Shared Parental Leave rights had, in fact, redressed the imbalance of which gender takes parental leave, one might expect the headlines to focus on discrimination against parents taking leave, rather than women taking leave.
“There may be a number of reasons why Shared Parental Leave has failed to take off; however, it does beg the question as to whether the government has done enough to upset the status quo.
“For example, with the gender pay gap currently standing at 18%, it is possible that the government has failed to offer the incentives needed to overcome the stigma reportedly felt by men when it comes to taking parental leave. In the UK, parents taking Shared Parental Leave are entitled, under legislation, to £139.58 per week. In Sweden, for example, shared leave is paid at much higher rates and equality is incentivised by paying parents a ‘gender equality bonus’ if 270 days of paid parental leave are divided evenly between mother and father. Men in Sweden reportedly take nearly a quarter of all parental leave. Did our government ‘get the price right’?
“Interestingly, the EU courts recently ruled that holiday pay should include not only basic pay, but also other amounts, such as sales commission, which would have been earned during the holiday period. This is so that employees are not discouraged from taking holiday for fear of being worse off. It will be interesting to see if there will be a move to ‘up the price’ for Shared Parental Leave, with similar reasoning in mind.”
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