WOMEN & EQUALITIES COMMITTEE OF UK PARLIAMENT
In early 2017, the Women and Equalities Committee of the UK Parliament launched an inquiry as new research revealed that many fathers do not feel supported in the workplace to care for their children.
Fathers Network Scotland was one of a number of organisations and individuals submitting written evidence to shine a light on fathers' experience of balancing work and caring responsibilities. We reported on Scottish fathers' experiences, and suggested several key measures which would improve uptake of shared parental leave and increase gender equality at home and at work.
The inquiry followed on from the Committee's report on the Gender Pay Gap in March 2016 which found that:
- Sharing care between fathers and mothers is the key to reducing the Gender Pay Gap
- Many fathers want to fulfil their caring responsibilities for their children
- The Government’s flagship policy of Shared Parental Leave, introduced in 2015, is likely to have little impact, with a predicted take-up rate of just 2-8%
Research published by Working Families shows that:
- 53% of millennial fathers want to downshift into a less stressful job because they can’t balance the demands of work and family life (Modern Families Index 2017, Working Families and Bright Horizons)
- Twice the number of fathers compared to mothers believe that flexible workers are viewed as less committed and that working flexibly will have a negative impact on their career (Modern Families Index 2017, Working Families and Bright Horizons)
- Men in the UK make up only 25.8% of the part-time workforce. Part-time working is strongly associated with undertaking caring responsibilities at home
- British men spend 24 minutes caring for children, for every hour done by women (Fairness in Families Index 2016, Fatherhood Institute)
Maria Miller, Chair of the Committee, said:
"Many fathers want to take a more active role in caring for their children. Our report on the Gender Pay Gap found that investing in policies that support men to share childcare equally, and allow women to continue working, will reap financial benefits as well as reducing the gender pay gap.
Supporting parents in the workplace is a priority for the Government. Yet it admits that its flagship Shared Parental Leave policy is likely to have a very low take-up rate.
Following our work on the Gender Pay Gap, the Women and Equalities Committee is now asking whether fathers are being failed in the workplace. Clearly more needs to be done. We are keen to hear views from individuals as well as organisations about the changes which they would like to see."
The inquiry sought evidence on the following issues:
- How well do fathers feel their current working arrangements help them to fulfil their caring responsibilities for children of all ages?
- Are there employment-related barriers to fathers sharing caring roles more equally?
- Do fathers have the financial support to enable them to fulfil their caring responsibilities?
- Are there social or attitudinal barriers to fathers in the workplace which need to be challenged?
- Are there changes to the workplace – such as an increase in freelance, agency or casual working – which might have an impact on fathers? Are there challenges for fathers working in particular employment sectors?
- What role can Government, employers and other stakeholders play in overcoming these barriers? What policy or legislative changes would be most effective in supporting fathers to fulfil their caring responsibilities?
- Are there specific issues facing fathers from particular groups or backgrounds, for example because of their income or ethnicity, or fathers of disabled children and young people?
- Are there examples (in the UK or internationally) of best practice amongst employers that could be taken up more widely?
The first spoken evidence was Evidence given by Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive Officer, Working Families; Edward Davies, Policy Director, Centre for Social Justice; Duncan Fisher, Co-Founder and Director, Family Initiative; Professor Tina Miller, Oxford Brookes University. Watch it on Parliament TV. Read a pdf transcript.