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Father’s Rights at work

It’s apparent that an increasing number of fathers and dads-to-be would like to be more proactive in family life and share the caring responsibilities for their children. However, the topics of shared parental leave and flexible working for men have hit the headlines recently and not always for good reason.Significantly, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee first report on Fathers in the Workplace has sparked much discussion surrounding employer good practice and the effectiveness of current systems in place. The consensus is certainly that whilst some very tentative improvements have been made, we still have a long way to go.

There have been some bright spots though. For example in 2017 insurance company Aviva announced equal paid parental leave for male & female employees (26 weeks leave on full basic pay) following the arrival of a new child. In addition, a Bright Horizons Modern Families Report 2018 released post-Father’s Day offers up some interesting facts, stating 1 in 5 Scottish fathers have adopted some form of flexible working such as part-time or flexible hours so that they can play a bigger role in looking after their children.

Paternity Leave and Pay

If they qualify then men can take up to two weeks paid paternity leave. However this is paid at the statutory rate. If your average weekly earnings are £116 or more (before tax) Statutory Paternity Leave is currently paid at either £143.18 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) so for many this is a significant loss of pay. Also, many don’t qualify. A survey in 2016 found that one in four men didn’t qualify for paternity leave or pay, often because they hadn’t been working for their employer for long enough.
Leave must be taken in one go, it can’t be taken before the birth and must end within 56 days of the birth. If you want to change your start date you’re required to give your employer 28 days’ notice (difficult one would imagine as we all know babies invariably don’t arrive on spec). You can also take unpaid leave to accompany your partner to two antenatal appointments. Agency workers have to be working for 12 weeks until they are entitled to this.

Flexible working hours

Taking on part-time or flexible working hours can help both parents combine work and family life in a flexible way. Remote work and other flexible work options are clearly growing and according to the National Office for Statistics it’s not just mums that require these flexible hours – over 80% of male full-time workers desire this too.

Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave was introduced with a flourish in 2015, designed to send a clear message that “responsibility for providing care for a child in the first year should be shared”. However, the take up rates have been very low and the system much derided for being too complex. The theory is that after having a baby both parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay. Parents can take time off separately or they can be at home together for up to 6 months. However, out of some 285,000 eligible couples it’s been predicted that only 2% of parents are taking up this option at present. The Government’s current ‘Share the Joy’ campaign scheme is designed to increase awareness and improve take-up. So why is SPL not working to address the problem?

Workplace Culture

Significantly, the Commons Report research suggests that our culture and social norms can act as a barrier to fathers sharing childcare, stating:

“In exercising rights to leave and flexible working, fathers risk job loss, demotion and negative comments. These are an effective deterrent to fathers considering changing their working arrangements to take on a greater share of caring responsibilities.”

It also suggests that to impact on gender equality (and the gender pay gap) and to make headway in removing any barriers to career progression for women, a significant number of fathers need to take extended periods of leave.

In addition, the Report research found that fathers who are employed on zero hours contracts, casual and agency work and those self-employed have considerably fewer employment rights than those who are employees.

The Government’s response to the Committee Report states that: “The Government acknowledges that families need to make difficult decisions about time and money and is keen to ensure that they have as wide a range of choices as possible. Fathers should be offered effective choices within the wider context of family workplace policies.”

It continues: “There is a lot of work underway in Government on issues both indirectly and directly relevant to the topic of fathers in the workplace. Many employers have already embraced the case for change and go beyond the statutory minimum. But we know that there is much more to be done.”

Hibberts partner and Employment Law expert Camille Renaudon says: “The Committee findings have certainly opened up the arena for more dialogue on UK workplace culture and a potential Governmental review of existing legislation, although at this time it seems that many of the recommendations of the Women & Equalities Committee will be rejected. At Hibberts we can advise on father’s working rights, the complex Shared Parental Leave system, flexible working applications, as well as providing sound and practical advice for employers surrounding Employment Law and good practice.”

Need help and advice concerning your working rights as a father? Or are you an employer wanting to obtain legal advice on good practice to ensure your Employment Law policies are up-to-date? Contact Camille Renaudon at Hibberts Solicitors on 01270 215117 or email cvr@hibberts.com

Camille Renaudon

Partner & Head of Employment

Camille Renaudon became a Partner of Hibberts LLP Solicitors in 2014.Receiving her Law Degree with honours at Sheffield University Camille graduated in 2002. Opting to work in the world of Youth Justice for the next 3 years to gain ‘life experience’, she returned to university in 2005 to complete a Legal Practice Course full time.Following this Camille completed her training course with Hibberts in 2008, qualifying as Solicitor.Heading up our Employment Law Department and primarily based at our Crewe office, she provides an employment law service for all of our offices across South Cheshire and North Shropshire.Camille represents both employers and employees across the UK and abroad. She provides a flexible service seeing clients’ at their convenience, either in the office or in their homes.