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New policy document on helping women in the workforce weather the pandemic finds offering plenty of well paid paternity leave is key
Longer and properly funded extra paternity leave is key to the economic recovery from Covid according to a new policy analysis.
The research looked at ways to support women to stay in the workforce in the face of the pressures unleashed by the pandemic. And it considered how to help women back into work. Both are vital for boosting economic growth.
Giving dads more time off will help on both fronts.
The Europe wide research was put together by policy organisation RAND for a committee of the European Parliament. It found only around a third of households contain two parents both working full time. In the majority of the other households the mother does not work full time.
Childcare responsibilities still fall primarily on women. And that’s a huge barrier to their full participation in the workforce.
The research suggests offering men decent, well paid, flexible paternity leave will help. It argues that parents ought to be able to decide how they split parental leave. That means being able to take it in separate blocks as necessary. And the researchers highlighted a Greek policy that allows parents to work part time for full time pay for a limited time. Inevitably Sweden’s parental and paternity policies also came under the spotlight. The government there ring fences time off for men after they become dads.
The paper also calls on companies to support dads who want to take extra paternity leave. They found that men who take more paternity leave become ‘full time parents’ from the start. And they show how it helps women back into the workforce. The report states, “The uptake of substantial paternity leave relates to greater equality in division of childcare even after the period of leave, thus also providing long-term support to women returning to work. The relationship works both ways: fathers’ use of parental leave facilitates mothers’ return to work after leave, and mothers taking shorter periods of leave facilitates fathers’ use of leave.”
Supporting dads to take extra paternity leave also benefits business. It provides a wider pool of talent containing women as well as men. And it improves ‘organisational commitment’. Even if uptake is low a company that adopts healthy parental support policies will enjoy greater loyalty from employees.
Other policies the researchers suggest for dads include “having a formal policy to support fathers to take leave, having champions of fathers’ leave-taking, and ensuring managers do not assume that the legal entitlement to leave is sufficient on its own for fathers to actually take the leave they are entitled to.”
Encouragingly the report authors conclude that dads are a key part of the solution when it comes to helping mums. They wrote, “Employers may want to make their approach less about enabling women to return to work and more about helping both parents reconcile work and childcare responsibilities. They could support supplemental leave for fathers; offer pay compensation that exceeds statutory requirements; and introduce champions to encourage fathers to take parental leave and consequently help women to stay in employment.”