Inquiry into "fatherhood penalty" launched by Government

The Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry into how employers can better support fathers in the workplace.

The inquiry has been launched on the back of new research from Working Families, which found that almost half of working fathers would like to downshift to a less stressful job because they want more work-life balance.

The number goes up for millennial fathers, with 53% seeking a less stressful working life.

The 2017 Working Families Index, which polled 2,750 parents across the UK, suggests that UK employers run the risk of creating a "fatherhood penalty", as more fathers consider downgrading their career aspirations to take a more active role in childcare.

Just over one-third of fathers (38%) said they would be prepared to take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance. Almost half (48%) of millennial fathers would be happy to accept a drop in salary.

One of the concerns fathers have is that taking more flexible working arrangements might mean they are viewed as less dedicated to their work - twice the number of fathers compared to mothers thought flexible workers were considered to be less committed, Working Families found.

Sarah Jackson, Working Families' chief executive, said that employers needed to ensure work was designed in a way that would help both men and women work around their caring responsibilities.

"Making roles flexible by default and a healthy dose of realism when it comes to what can be done in the hours available are absolutely vital," she said.

"A game-changing first step would be government creating a new, properly paid, extended period of paternity leave - sending [a] clear signal that government recognises the aspirations of modern fathers and is serious about tackling the motherhood penalty that blights the working lives of so many women."

The Committee's report into the gender pay gap in March 2016 found that shared parental leave will have a predicted take-up rate of just 2% to 8%.

Maria Miller, chair of the Committee added: "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 Committee will take views from individuals and organisations 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 that 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 the 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 among employers that could be taken up more widely?

The inquiry will close on 1 Mar 2017.