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Government urged to better support working fathers

Research finds half of fathers are unaware of Shared Parental Leave as government says more research is needed before higher funding can be given

Campaigners and charities have criticised the government’s response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s report on supporting fathers in the workplace.

In March the Committee published its report Fathers and the workplace, which called for new measures on paternity leave and pay, shared parental leave (SPL), the right to flexible working, workplace rights and driving cultural change.

However, yesterday the government said that further research and debate was needed before it could provide more funding.

Julia Waltham, head of policy and campaigns at Working Families, said the government’s response was a “missed opportunity”.

“The government’s response can be summed up in five words: heavy on the long grass. Action to support fathers in the workplace – particularly around the levels of statutory pay and support for self-employed fathers – is already long overdue,” she said.

“Sufficient pay is crucial to encourage fathers to take leave around childbirth and in the first year; the current levels of paternity and Shared Parental Pay are not sufficient to ensure all fathers use it. The government’s response is another missed opportunity to address this.”

Chloe Chambraud, gender equality director at Business in the Community, said: “It’s extremely disappointing that the government has rejected many of the Women and Equalities Committee’s recommendations on fathers in the workplace. We know that many men, particularly younger fathers, want a better work/life balance and resent work interfering with family life, but they are not getting these opportunities."

She added: "This represents a significant risk to businesses and may result in their best talent – both male and female – leaving for employers who are adapting to these changes and are better equipped to balance the needs of individuals and the organisation."

Meanwhile research from Aviva has found that nearly half (46%) of working fathers are unaware they are entitled to take SPL.

The survey of UK parents with dependent children found that one in 10 dads (11%) took no time off when their most recent child was born. The report urged businesses to do more to make sure their male staff know their rights.

A lack of funding was a significant factor in the findings. As many as 86% of fathers would have taken more time off, but felt restricted by financial factors and employer constraints. Fifty-two per cent of parents believed there should be more support from the government for equal parental leave, while 69% wanted greater assistance for flexible working.

Nine out of 10 parents questioned (93%) felt that employers should give both mothers and fathers equal parental leave when a new child arrives. But the majority of fathers (56%) took less than a month off work when their most recent child was born or adopted; the time taken by this group was typically 12 days. By comparison mothers took more than a year off work on average.

Out of the fathers surveyed, 93% said they would have taken longer off work when their child arrived if their employer had allowed it. However, 67% per cent would have only done so if the leave was paid, compared to 26% who would have taken unpaid time away.

Sarah Morris, chief people officer at Aviva, said that family-friendly working policies offer benefits for both parents and employers.

“Working and looking after children means a constant juggling act and it’s clear that many fathers feel overlooked and under-supported by their employer in this respect. Progress is being made, but our research suggests there’s still a way to go,” she said.

“Family-friendly working policies can offer huge benefits to employers and workers alike, whether this means extended parental leave, flexible working, or options for job shares. We hope to see more employers introducing inclusive policies for both men and women, to help working parents strike a balance and get the most out of their lives inside and outside work.”