Labour Research July 2018

Equality news

Significant inequalities remain over childcare

Despite progress towards greater gender equality, significant inequalities persist in the way childcare responsibilities are divided up and shared, says a recent report by the Government Equalities Office.

Return to work: parental decision-making analyses the process of how childcare responsibilities are shared between men and women. It reports that implicit decision-making is common: this is when couples make decisions about the division of childcare and return to work without explicit discussion or negotiation, despite these decisions having a substantial impact on both parents’ lives. 

Financial factors inevitably play a role with many couples experiencing a strong financial incentive for the mother to take on a bigger share of childcare responsibilities. This is because women tend to earn less than their partners, and most employers offer enhanced maternity pay but not enhanced Shared Parental Pay. 

At the same time, couples tend to disregard, or not be aware of, the long-term cost to mothers of taking time out of the labour market. 

The study says that parents often lack a clear understanding of Shared Parental Leave eligibility rules and are not aware that it is a legal entitlement for eligible parents. 

The authors say their findings point to the importance of providing clear and user-friendly information, but also finding other, more radical ways to encourage parents to consider sharing childcare responsibilities in a more equal way.