Gender Pay Gap Solution – Equal Mandatory Maternity & Paternity Leave
In the context of recent and growing discourse on the gender pay gap, solutions on resolving some of the root causes have been few.
There are many legacy reasons for the gender pay gap, from (inexcusable) basic sexism, habitual inertia to inherent structural issues.
One such structural issue is the unavoidable time needed out of the workplace for maternity leave when children are born. This can give rise to an advantage accruing to male workers in terms of continuous attendance, the perception of “no disruption” and career progression over female workers, directly arising from this naturally occurring event.
So, here’s a radical idea: mothers and fathers should be required to take a government-imposed equal and mandatory amount of parental leave on the birth of each of their children, to occur consecutively (first mom, then dad). There would be many advantages to this, especially from a family (parental bonding, continuous parenting, deferred childcare costs) and society perspective.
In the workplace, there would be an important closing of one of the main structural gaps – male and female will have the same amount of time absent from the workplace. Two “equalization” outcomes arise: firstly, every parent would have the same “gap” in their career and every parent would be the cause of the “disruption” – it would no longer be a (perceived) female issue.
One potential concern arises around financial affordability for families having two parents away from work for an extended period of time, but this issue would likely forge quick and better financial solutions, through higher parental leave pay, reduced external childcare costs or optional mortgage repayment holidays. Problems have a habit of getting solved when more people suffer from them. To mis-quote an old Irish saying (“Níl aon tóin tinn, mar do thóin tinn féin”) – There’s no sore bum like your own sore bum!
One could argue that workers with no children would then have the next “unfair” advantage, but this situation exists today, so no additional advantage will arise.
A levelling of the playing field by knocking out a perceived disadvantage to progression would build an equal workplace, a better society and make for happier parents.
Having worked across many businesses, and in client organisations as an Interim Manager, the parental leave “gap” is one continuously recurring scenario that differentiates male from female. It’s time for this to become “parent”.
John Eager is Principal of WinAbu Consulting, and a member of CAIM.
Written by: Winabu
Date: May 10, 2018