Possible changes to paternity rights?
Earlier this year, the Women and Equalities Committee published its report, Fathers and the Workplace, which included a number of recommendations in relation to improving fathers’ rights at work.
The Government has now published its response , in which it notes that it “is firmly committed to supporting mothers and fathers to balance work and family life in a way which works best for them—and all things being equal, many fathers and partners would want to spend more time with their children, in the first year, but also throughout childhood and beyond”. Included in the response, the Government:
- rejected the Committee’s recommendation that fathers who are employees should be entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments as a day-one right. It notes that although it would like as many fathers and partners as possible to be able to attend ante-natal appointments, it believes that the current statutory position strikes the right balance between allowing fathers time off and an employer’s need to balance all the various family and other annual leave requirements in the context of running a business;
- is unlikely to follow the Committee’s recommendation that fathers who are employees should be eligible for two week’s paternity leave as a day-one right, similar to maternity leave. It notes that the fundamental principle underlying maternity leave is that it enables women to recover from birth, and that is unique to mothers; hence the difference between maternity leave and pay and paternity leave and pay. The Government said that it will gather more views on paternity leave and pay;
- will commission surveys to provide information about shared parental leave and pay before making any decisions on possible reforms. The Committee had recommended replacing shared parental leave with an alternative policy of 12 weeks paternal leave and pay which fathers would be eligible to take without affecting the mother’s entitlement to maternity leave and pay. However, the Government has noted that it is committed to shared parental leave, and that the policy is still relatively new and “has had little time to bed in”. It will keep under review the impact that a recent publicity campaign has had on raising awareness and the impact of guidance for parents thinking of taking shared parental leave and pay;
- has established a Flexible Working Taskforce to tackle the barriers and challenges in the employment lifecycle around flexible working. The taskforce will seek greater acknowledgment among employers of the benefits of greater flexible working and hiring, leading to changes in practice; more insight into good practice; and better access to expert advice and support. This is in advance of the evaluation of the right to request flexible working which is due in 2019;
- has not committed for the time being to agree to the Committee’s recommendation that “paternity” should be included as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
The Government has stated that it will monitor the results of the planned 2018 Maternity and Paternity Rights Survey, which will include questions relating to the take-up of paternity leave, to gain a greater understanding of the experience of working fathers. In the meantime, on a practical level there is no change for the moment for employers.
29 June 2018
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