When one of your colleagues or perhaps one of your employees tells you that he/she is having a baby do you think their commitment to their job will be unaffected? Or,do you respond very differently depending on whether it's a woman telling you she is about to become a mother or a man telling you he is going to be a dad? A new Survation poll for the Fawcett Society, released on International Women's Day reveals that we still hold very gendered views about mums and dads at work.
46% of people think that when a woman has a baby she becomes less committed to her job, while 29% of people think dads become more committed. So the stereotype is perpetuated of the man, having to work harder to provide for his family contrasted with the homemaker mum who will naturally want to focus on caring for her child and become less interested in work.
But this stereotype is in marked contrast with what dads want to do. 4 in 10 dads say they lie to their bosses in order to spend time caring for children and 35% of dads saying that men who take time off to care are not supported at work. Added to that, this survey finds that overwhelmingly we all want more flexible working with 7 in 10 people - women and men- confirming that this is what they look for in a job, yet Timewise research finds that just 6% of quality roles are advertised as flexible working jobs.
This is why Fawcett is calling for Flexibility First - all jobs to be advertised on a flexible working basis unless there is a good business case not to. We have to start in a different place if we really want to drive change. Those working part-time should also have the right to request an increase in hours, to avoid being trapped in low-paid part-time work. This would significantly help women who have returned from maternity leave and reduced hours but then want to change later on.
This all takes a rather more serious turn when we consider that 54,000 women each year have to leave their job early after getting pregnant or having a baby. Is it that their perceived lack of commitment to their job somehow licences discriminatory practices? Or perhaps it's because employers know that a woman who has just had a baby is hardly in a position to bring an employment tribunal claim (and pay ET fees of £1200 for the pleasure)? Fawcett wants to see these ET fees removed. They act as barriers to justice.
Despite the welcome introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) the UK's leave arrangements are very much geared towards supporting mothers with fathers very much in second place. The Government's own impact assessment predicted SPL take up of just 2-8%. In Sweden it's 80%. The only way we are fundamentally going to change this is firstly to create a dedicated period of leave for dads, paid at a decent wage replacement rate. Secondly, if we want to remove the motherhood penalty over the longer term we also need to redraw the map of leave to equalise women's and men's entitlements.
Our survey found that 68% of people and 71% of parents agree mothers and fathers should have the same pay and leave entitlements. That is controversial because the fear is that mums will lose out. But if we managed it carefully they wouldn't have to and with a pay gap of 14% for full-time work and over 30% for part-time, the truth is they already are. Time for a re-think perhaps? The theme of International Women's Day is 'parity' but without equality at home we have no chance of achieving it in the workplace.