Cross-party group of MPs call for action from government on improving the low take-up of shared parental leave

 
Rebecca Smith
MPs said they were concerned about the low take-up of shared parental leave
MPs said they were concerned about the low take-up of shared parental leave (Source: Getty)

A cross-party group of MPs has criticised the government for inaction on improving shared parental leave, two years after the policy was first announced.

Some 46 MPs have signed a letter to the minister for women and equalities, arguing that "as long as women continue to take disproportionate responsibility for the care of children, the gender pay gap will persist".

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They want action from the government to improve take-up of the leave. In December, the CIPD found just five per cent of new fathers and eight per cent of new mothers had opted to take shared parental leave since it was introduced in April 2015.

The letter was coordinated by Labour MP David Lammy, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fatherhood, and was signed by Women and Equalities Select Committee chair Maria Miller MP, Flick Drummond MP, Chuka Umunna, Jess Phillips and Caroline Lucas.

"It is blindingly obvious that we won’t see progress on gender equality both in and out of the workplace and we won’t see progress on active fatherhood until we have effective policies on shared parental leave in place," Lammy said, calling for a shared parental leave policy "that reflects the realities of the modern world".

The evidence is clear – fathers want to be more engaged, they want to spend more time with their children and they want to share the burden of parenthood equally but they are worried that this will mean that they lose out at work and that their employer will penalise them.

An excerpt of the MPs' letter to Justine Greening

As long as women continue to take disproportionate responsibility for the care of children, the gender pay gap will persist. We are therefore very disappointed that the government rejected the Women and Equalities Committee’s recommendation for a more effective policy on SPL.

We are extremely concerned about the low take-up of SPL, and we are particularly worried about gendered working culture that means that many men are worried that taking leave will be viewed negatively by their employer and limit their career.

A statutory entitlement to three months non-transferable paid paternal leave for second parents, at the same rate as maternity pay, as well as equalisation of payments for the first four weeks of maternity and paternity pay would be a significant step forwards both in practical terms and in shifting cultural attitudes.

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