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‘Mocked’ for caring

Dads say they face discrimination for taking time off work to care for kids
Hajera Blagg, Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

Men face an entrenched workplace culture that fails to encourage them to take parental leave, according to a new survey out this week (April 29).


The poll of 1,000 fathers found that a third of the men reported that their career had suffered as a result of taking time off to care for their children, while one in four said that they had been victims of verbal abuse or mockery after taking time off for childcare.


Almost half of fathers said they had experienced some form of discrimination for taking parental leave.


Jason Downes, managing director of PowWowNow, the firm that undertook the survey, said that it was “high time workplace culture evolved to ensure fathers are confident their rights as parents will be respected.


“Employers must implement family-friendly policies and better encourage the uptake of flexible working practices that allow men to help raise children and better fit work around family life. By making flexible working a part of the workplace, we can make office culture more friendly to new parents.”


The latest survey comes as research from the TUC shows the government’s Shared Parental Leave (SPL) scheme has had very little take up over the last year – only 1 per cent of eligible parents took SPL, or 9,200 parents out of the nearly 1m who were eligible.


SPL, which was introduced by the government in 2015, allows fathers to share parental leave with their partners up to 50 weeks, including sharing a maximum of 37 weeks’ statutory parental pay, which is paid at only £148.68 a week.


The TUC has said that shared parental leave has failed because it does not go far enough.


“Shared parental leave needs overhauling,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady earlier this month. “It’s not an affordable option for most working families.


“Without better rights to well-paid leave, many new parents will continue to miss out on spending time with their children. And mums will continue to take on the lion-share of caring responsibilities,” she added.


“If ministers are serious about getting men more involved after their child is born they should give all dads longer, better-paid paternity leave. Dads need leave they can take in their own right. It shouldn’t rely on mums giving up some of their maternity leave.”


Unite national officer Siobhan Endean agreed.


“Shared Parental Leave is a policy that needs a major revamp if parents are able to afford to take time off when their babies are born,” she said. “Statutory paternity pay is now less than half the weekly full-time minimum wage – this is a disgrace.”


“If the government truly wants to see progress in this area they can start by increasing statutory paternity pay and making parental leave more flexible. New dads should have a right to paternity leave that is not linked to their partners’.”


“As the worrying results of the latest survey have shown, we also need to change workplace cultures and societal attitudes so that fathers are actively encouraged to take leave to care for their children. If we’re serious about closing the gender pay gap, then we must make sharing childcare duties the norm in our society.”


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