While there have been significant improvements in gender equality across the workplace in recent years, last year nearly 45 percent of UK companies reported that their gender pay gap had in fact increased. Further, research from Denmark has found an intrinsic link between the widening gender pay gap and having children. In the initial months after having their first child, women’s earnings were 30 percent lower than their male counterparts; a gap that plateaued out to 20 percent for the rest of their careers post children.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) policies were introduced in the UK in 2015 to encourage fathers to take on more childcare responsibilities, with the intention that this would enable mothers to get back into the workplace and ultimately reduce the pay gap. Yet uptake of this policy has been disappointingly low – only two percent of parents who are eligible to take this option have done so in the last four years.
It’s clear that more needs to be done to encourage new dads to take the option of SPL so childcare roles can be shared more equally, enabling mums to get back to work if they wish. Here we’ll explore some pragmatic ways that businesses can support all new parents while contributing towards reducing the gender pay gap.
Transparency around support and policies
With one in five new dads reporting that they weren’t aware of their rights to SPL; HR teams need to make prospective new parents aware of all their options. If we’re trying to encourage more dads to take SPL, they first need to know it’s a possibility! This can be done through an internal portal that houses all the relevant information they need in an easy to access and understandable format.
Sadly, cultural stigmas still exist, especially when it comes to childcare roles. However, to break the cycle employers need to create a positive, supportive environment where all parents, particularly men, feel they can talk about their needs and the childcare options available to them.
Implement flexible working policies for all parents
Working with staff who are new parents on a case-by-case basis will enable HR teams to create bespoke plans that not only support individuals’ childcare needs but also ensure that they can balance work commitments and remain productive.
It’s essential that this is offered to both new mums and dads, as while many companies offer women part-time and flexible working hours, this often isn’t extended to men. While this isn’t always easy to implement, ideally this should be put into a formal policy that supports all new parents, enabling them to work flexible hours or remotely in order to share childcare responsibilities more equally.
However, implementing flexible working policies will only be successful if staff have access to the necessary communication tools needed to work outside of the office and at flexible times. These platforms and tools are readily available and enable employees to work anywhere in the world and still remain connected with teams and up to date on all live projects.
From video calls and instant messaging to screen sharing, HR teams and managers can support returning parents in easing themselves and the rest of the team back into work. Further, for new dads in particular, it can help reduce the stigma of them working flexibly to look after their kids. Shared calendars that have clearly blocked out time for “school pick-up” will put clear boundaries and set expectations for when staff will and won’t be online. As a repeat calendar event each week, over time this should contribute towards normalising the concept for everyone in the workplace.
According to a recent study, nearly all (90%) fathers reported that taking extended time off to look after their children had a positive effect on their family life. It’s clear that more needs to be done to support new dads to take on more childcare responsibility, thereby enabling their partners to return to work. Undeniably, the gender pay gap is linked to having children, and all parties need to work together to re-balance gender roles and reduce the pay gap.