Maternity vs Paternity leave – bridging another gap

27 September 2019

The UK government introduced the shared parental leave and pay policy in 2015, allowing both parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay, it is estimated however that only two per cent of eligible parents in the UK have made use of it. Why? There are a number of barriers which include the following. 

Potential financial burden

The gender pay gap is a hot topic in the employment world at present, where women in full-time employment are paid 8.6 per cent less than the average male, this issue contributes to gender inequality in parental leave as it would reflect a greater cost for a family unit for a male parent to take time off work at statutory pay. 

Presently, there are two legal cases seeking appeal against rulings on whether it is sex discrimination for an employer not to pay a man who takes shared parental leave following the birth of a child at the same rate as a woman on maternity leave.

Stigma and discrimination

Discrimination is not only being fought against by employees, politicians have called on the government to require companies with more than 250 employees to publish their parental pay and leave policies in order to empower jobseekers. Recent statistics published by the online parent’s forum Mumsnet indicate that:

  • 57 per cent of parents have avoided asking about parental leave policies after a job offer;
  • 66 per cent found it difficult or impossible to find information about parental leave policies when considering a position; and
  • 37 per cent said that not being able to find out about parental leave policies has made it more difficult for them to find suitable work.

Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts said:

This is a hidden form of discrimination that’s gone on for way too long. As with gender pay gap reporting, this sort of public accountability celebrates employers with inclusive policies, powerfully incentivises others to be better."

Leading the way

Top companies are making efforts to encourage equality in paternity and maternity packages, publicly advertising their enhanced policies. In 2017 Aviva, the FTSE 100 insurer, became the first in the UK to offer all new mothers and fathers six months of fully paid leave following the birth of a child. Telegraph Media Group and the drinks maker Diageo have since followed suit. Mairéad Nayager, chief HR officer at Diageo commented ‘True gender equality in the working world requires a shake-up of the policies and cultural norms around parental leave.’ 

By offering employees the chance to spend quality time with children without risk of discrimination or financial stress employers can also reap benefits - in a happier, more loyal and more productive workforce. 

Whatever the policy, ensuring effective management of the administration is part of our expertise – RSM’s payroll software expertly manages a range of occupational absences including Adoption, Paternity and Shared Paternity Leave schemes.

Please contact Simon Balaam for help reviewing and managing the benefits you offer.