Articles From the Team

Paternity Leave and the Gender Pay Gap

I recently read a couple of articles that have made me stop and think. I read a report that MPs are being advised that men should be “made” to take Paternity leave. I also read an article highlighting that even if men and women are paid exactly the same in an organisation, there is still likely to be a gender pay gap.

Before I go further, it is worth me putting some perspective on the angle that from which I approach this topic. I am a father of three young children, the oldest of whom is a very bright and capable girl. My wife has chosen to work on a part time in order to maximise her time with the children. In my own childhood my mother returned to work full time as soon as she could and progressed to the top of her chosen career. Full time childcare, wrap around childcare and daddy day care didn’t do me any harm at all.

Now in my mid 30’s, most of my friends are also the parents of young children or about to become the parents of young children. Therefore, it feels like it is my peer group that is being directly targeted by a lot of these “initiatives”. But to be honest they don’t feel like a reflection of the hopes, wishes or desires of the people that I see around me.

Certainly when you put the phrase “how do I convince my husband to let” into Google the suggested (i.e. most popular) searches give an interesting snap shot of what the silent majority are most interested in.

The majority of the mothers in my peer group would choose to spend as much time as physically possible with their children. As a result most have requested the opportunity to work on a part-time basis or chosen not to work at all. All of those that have requested part-time working now work part-time. Where necessary some of the fathers of said children have been encouraged by their wives to secure better paying jobs and/or work more. The more the fathers are paid, the less the mothers need to work. Or the more flexibility or choice they have on what they do. Whilst it would be preferable for the family to spend as much time as they can together, if someone has to sacrifice their time with the family to “win bread” it seems that the father is often the preferred option.

In the cases where the mothers wish to work on a full time or almost full time basis that has been achievable too. In some cases their husbands have taken on more or all of the child care responsibilities, in other cases child care and wrap around care have been used. It is no surprise that those women who choose to work on a full time or four day a week basis find it easier to demonstrate their capabilities to their employer than those that choose to work three days or less. The knock on effect in the short term is often greater progress in their chosen career.

In most cases the mother has chosen what she wants to do. In fact in those cases when the mothers feel forced into an action, it is usually that they feel forced into working more than they want to. Indeed during discussion with my friends less than ideal levels of maternity pay, which force women to go back to work earlier than they would like, is usually of much more concern than the gender pay gap. Particularly now the reasons for the gender pay gap have so heavily linked to maternity and caring responsibilities.

Indeed a good number (not all) of the mothers that I know that are the major bread winners in their family, would (where this compromises their time with their children) rather that this was not the case. If their husbands earning more would allow them to spend more time with their children I think it is fair to say that a number would genuinely prefer the role reversal.

Preventing companies from promoting men (for fear of looking bad in public reporting) and forcing men to take paternity leave does not seem to be the way to “fix” the issues that are troubling the 30 something year old mothers that I know. Conversely it is actually likely to make the situation worse. If fathers in their 30’s cannot push on and earn more money this will very much limit the choices that their wives are able to make concerning their work life balance.

As a recruiter I have had the pleasure to help both men and women find new jobs to help cope with the demands of parenthood. Whether either parent is looking for increased pay or increased flexibility.

For help, advice or assistance with any of the issues above, either as an employer or employee please don’t hesitate to contact BCL Legal or call 0845 241 0933.

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