In April new expanded parenting rights came in with more generous benefits for fathers. This was ideally aimed at encouraging more new fathers to share a greater proportion of leave with mothers, but early data suggest take up has been dismal – estimates ranging between 2-8% of eligible new fathers. While this is unexpectedly low, it shouldn’t be taken as a sign of a lack of interest – more likely of a lack of incentive. With statutory pay (£139.50 per week maximum) being even lower than minimum wage (£234.50 per week) for a 35 hour work week, it’s perhaps no surprise dads are stepping forward. While we talk a lot about female breadwinners, men are still likely to be the bigger earner in any family, which means these derisory amounts are hardly affordable for most families.
Maternity Action, a charity aimed at working mothers, says heir helpline gets lots of calls from dads whose employers discourage them from paternity leave. A second likely factor, is that job insecurity in the modern workplace has never been higher – for men or women. It’s estimated that 60,000 women in the UK are illegally sacked or forced from their jobs because of pregnancies. While there is no data on new fathers, it’s not a leap to suggest they too would be potentially seen as ‘not committed’ and ripe for a redundancy if raising their head above the parapet to ask for these legal entitlements.
The assumptions we make on these topics are all vital situations to explore. Our sister company InclusIQ is building a new e-simulation for a client whereby a female character asks for a reduced work week to pursue other interests. By contrast, a male character asks in order to be a more hands-on dad to new twins. Getting people to play through these scenarios is a great way to raise discussion on gendered expectations and best practice. Get in touch if you’d like more information on our e-simulation based training.