Why Nick Clegg’s plans to make Britain less ‘Edwardian’ lack teeth

23 April 2014

The Fatherhood Institute welcomes Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s comments about wanting to “sweep away those Edwardian rules which still hold back those families working hard to juggle their responsibilities at home and work”, expected to be included in a speech at the launch of the CityFathers Network today (23 April). But while Mr Clegg’s comments may hold symbolic value, they lack the substance to translate into real change for most hard-pressed families. For example:

  • The shared parental leave system that’s being introduced from next year will barely increase fathers’ uptake of parental leave above current levels – not least because by the government’s own estimate, fathers in only 1:3 working families will be eligible for it.
  • Paternity Leave is currently paid at below the level of the minimum wage, so the poorest and most stressed fathers are proving unable to take it – even though they want to.
  • Employers’ attitudes remain resolutely ‘traditional’, resulting in mothers taking the ‘career hit’ when they have children, and fathers facing an uphill struggle to challenge the status quo. For example fathers remain less likely to ask for flexible working, and when they do, employers are more likely to refuse their request.
  • Services and resources for new parents funded with tax-payers’ money continue to present parenting in an ‘Edwardian’ way, ignoring fathers’ roles and impact and making mothers wholly responsible (see our latest blog  for an example).

If the Government is serious about supporting more mums and dads to balance breadwinning and caring responsibilities, there are several key measures it could take:

  • Increase paternity pay to at least Living Wage level
  • Revisit its original plans (as outlined in its 2011 consultation document Modern Workplaces) to move towards a Scandinavian-style parenting leave system
  • Ensure all existing inspection frameworks for maternity services, early years and schools include a requirement to engage effectively with fathers, and improve engagement from the current low levels, year-on-year.

For interviews or more details please contact FI Head of Communications Jeremy Davies on 0780 371 1692 or j.davies@fatherhoodinstitute.org.

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