With the 2019 general election manifestos published we can compare and contrast what the parties have pledged to help working dads.
There’s two weeks to go to the general election. And with all the major manifestos published we can now compare and contrast what’s on offer for working dads at the forthcoming general election.
There’s broad agreement that more needs to be done on the core elements of flexible working and paternity leave. But each party is offering different details. And overall it makes for a fairly uninspiring picture.
All the parties are keen on flexible working. Not all are putting their money where their mouth is policy wise.
Labour and the Lib Dems want to make it a day one right. Currently employees have to clock up a certain amount of time in a job before they are entitled to make a flexible working application. The Lib Dems say they want to make it available to all workers which fits with comments leader Jo Swinson has previously made about the future of work and flexible working no longer being seen as particularly for parents.
The Tories only talk of ‘encouraging’ more flexible working. However they have promised to consult on making all jobs flexible by default. Something that campaigners called for earlier in the year, getting as far as introducing a draft law before parliament was dissolved. Administrations tend to only consult on measures that they are well disposed towards.
Again there’s agreement on increasing it. Labour want to double entitlement to four weeks. The Lib Dems have promised to hike it to six weeks and seem to suggest they’d make it a day one right in any job.
The SNP this week focused on the level of pay available with plans for at least one week of fully paid paternity leave. The Scots Nationalists are also the only party to explicitly address Shared Parental Leave. They want to add a three month ‘daddy quota’ to the set up. Parents would be entitled to 64 weeks of SPL in total under the SNP plan with 12 weeks of that for dads on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. However employment rights are a so-called reserved matter that only Westminster can legislate on. So the SNP plan could only happen if they insisted on it as part of power sharing negotiations with Labour.
Again the Conservatives are all about consultation. A government consultation begun by Theresa May just as she left office closes this week. She talked of upping dads entitlement to 12 weeks but it’ll likely take weeks if not months for the government to sift through the responses to the consultation and bring forward proposals.
The consultation also touches on Shared Parental Leave with questions about whether and how the policy should be made available to self employed parents. If the Tories win the election, as currently predicted, that consultation may prove more important than their manifesto in determining the direction of travel on paternity leave and Shared Parental Leave.
The Lib Dems are offering 35 hours of free childcare per week for kids aged over nine months, ie when paid parental leave ends.
Labour have promised free childcare for preschoolers aged between two and four. But that seems to max out at 30 hours per week.
The Conservatives are offering cash. £1 billion for childcare providers for more after school and holiday provision.
Labour want to increase paid maternity leave from nine to 12 months. That may have implications for Shared Parental Leave.
There’s another government consultation just finished on improving care for parents of premature babies. A number of MPs have raised this issue in recent months. It seems likely any new government will address it fairly swiftly. The fact it’s been stripped out of the broader consultation on parental leave suggests it’s seen as a more straightforward policy fix.
And many parents would be hit by the Labour pledge to scrap the married couple’s tax allowance. That would leave them around £400 per year worse off.
All parents come into contact with the NHS. So pledges on that could make a difference to services like midwifery and getting GPs appointments when your child comes out in a mystery rash. Labour are promising £40billion extra for the service, free prescriptions and limited free dental care. The Conservatives have pledged £34billion more plus extra nurses and GP appointments. The Lib Dems want to put a penny on income tax to raise £7billion a year extra for the NHS. The SNP want health spending in the UK to match the level spent in Scotland, which in turn would see extra funds go to the Scottish Government for health.
There’s an awful lot of parents out there, yet the parties seem to be only half heartedly courting their vote. Focusing on big issues like tax and Brexit is inevitable and everyone will be impacted by those things.
But there’s a disappointing lack of imagination or genuinely game-changing policies in the manifestos for working dads. (The SNP’s daddy quota is an honourable exception. But since they aren’t actually standing to form an administration there are obvious caveats to it.)
We know from our own research and plenty of other surveys that working dads are demanding more. It’d be nice to see more talk of parenting policies in the remaining weeks of the campaign.