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A report published today by Acas calls for more flexible working for parents returning to work after parental leave as a way to tackle gender inequality and the gender pay gap.
The report emphasises that while women lose out on promotion, men also pay a ‘parenthood penalty’ by spending less time with their children and families. The low take-up of flexible working arrangements and even paternity leave is proof of this.
The report, Flexible Working for Parents Returning to Work – Maintaining career development, by the Institute of Employment Studies, draws on existing research evidence and a series of case studies.
Author Mary Mercer found that women are encouraged by employers to take maternity leave, keep in touch and be informed about flexible working on return, whereas fathers are treated differently.
More on flexible working and shared parental leave
Survey evidence suggests most fathers take some leave for the birth of their child, but it is often annual leave. Employers are less likely to enhance paternity pay, encourage the father to take paternity leave, or remind them of flexible working policies.
The report finds: “There is a risk that organisations that have an enhanced maternity package but that have not enhanced shared parental leave pay will be seen to be signalling some form of status quo bias.”
Employers are urged to view flexibility as a business tool that can create an agile and responsive workforce, rather than as a reactive response to accommodate caring responsibilities. Flexible working for male and female parents can result in reduced costs and increases in employee loyalty and productivity, if the right balance is achieved.
But first, managers need to challenge the perceived view that working long hours and visibility at work is linked to good performance.
Acas head of strategy Gill Dix said: “Ou