The conciliatory service ACAS recently published a report focused on workplace attitudes towards supporting parents who take extended leave to care for children. The report, Flexible Working for Parents Returning to Work – Maintaining career development, confirms that while there’s been a big push for employers to encourage women to feel comfortable taking maternity leave without losing their status in the workplace, the same can not be said for their male counterparts.
We only have to look at the low take up of men on flexible working arrangements, shared parental leave and even paternity leave as evidence.
The report confirmed that only 15% of fathers worked part time compared with 59% of mothers. Women with dependent children are more likely to work school terms only (42%), compared with men with dependent children (24%). And yet a 2011 study reported that 82% of the 1000 employed fathers interviewed said they would like to spend more time with their family.
Low rates = less favourable treatment
The report coincides with a recent ruling in the employment tribunal where a father succeeded in his claim for sex discrimination. This followed his company’s failure to pay shared parental leave at the same enhanced rate as maternity pay offered to women. In Ali v Capita Customer Management Ltd the denial of full pay amounted to less favourable treatment and the reason for this was Mr Ali's sex.
This disparity in pay is commonplace across all industries. Statistics show that while 70% of new mothers on maternity leave received full pay between 1 and 38 weeks, just 9% of fathers received anything longer than two weeks at full pay.
No wonder then that ACAS found employers were failing to make male employees aware of their entitlements, including paternity leave, paternity pay and other flexible working options. And even if men are aware, it’s unlikely that they feel comfortable making these requests as the survey revealed that male employees are often perceived as less ambitious when they request flexible hours.
Until this balance is addressed companies run a risk of claims similar to Mr Ali’s.
Supporting both sets of parents in balancing work and childcare responsibilities is a pro-active way of tackling gender equality in the workplace and addressing the gender pay gap. For more information about how your business can take steps to shift this cultural attitude please contact a member of our employment team.