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Flexible working and increased paternity leave will help close the pay gap, says report

New recommendations by the Equality and Human Rights Commission hope to speed up the “painfully slow” road to pay equality

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By Emily Baker on

All jobs should offer flexible working and fathers given extra paternity leave to help close the pay gap, says a new report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) today.

According to the report, increased flexibility needs to be offered at all levels – especially in managerial roles, where a third of businesses do not allow part-time work – to allow parents to “balance work and family needs”. The EHRC wants the government to reduce the amount of time employees must wait before they can request flexible working to just one day, down from the 26 weeks currently in place. It is hoped that a change in legislation will help balance the disproportionate amount of women, disabled people and ethnic minorities who are currently employed in low-paid part-time work.

The EHRC report wants the government to ensure men are offered paternity leave on a “use it or lose it” condition, with an improved financial incentive to encourage more fathers to take time off work. As women are four times more likely to leave work for care responsibilities, these changes would make childcare a shared responsibility for both parents and – according to the report – help to close the pay gap. Free childcare must also be extended and made more readily available to women, it says.

We need radical change now, otherwise we’ll be having the same conversation for decades to come

Deputy chair of the EHRC Caroline Waters, told The Guardian: “We need new ideas to bring down pay gaps. While there has been some progress, it has been painfully slow. We need radical change now, otherwise we’ll be having the same conversation for decades to come.”

In addition to these changes in legislation, the report says the government should closely monitor the required reporting on gender pay gaps from businesses, and create a national target for the amount of women big businesses should employ.

The recommendations come as part of a wider strategy to tackle the pay disparities between men and women, as well as those attributed to ethnicity and disability, and have been well received by equality organisations. Jemima Olchawski, head of policy and insight at the Fawcett Society, said, “The EHRC is right to call for fathers to get ‘use it or lose it’ paid leave that encourages them to take time off and to point to the importance of flexible working. Taking these steps will be good for employees but also good for business; without it, we risk excluding talented people from our workforce and underperforming as an economy.

“Only when we look at the diversity of women's experiences can we move closer to closing the gender pay gap for everyone and for good.”

@emilyrbakes

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