A former political party employee (and new parent) living in the north of England tells us why gender equality would help Dads too
I think equality is important everywhere, but the workplace is a key area where inequality has remained persistent. Take for example the existence of the gender pay gap 45 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed. If we are truly to become a feminist society then we can't afford to turn a blind eye to discrimination at work.
I feel I've been discriminated against. Until recently I worked for a political party that espouses a lot of progressive, feminist policies but, in my case, fails to practice what it preaches with its own employees.
My wife and I recently had a baby and wanted to take advantage of the Government's new Shared Parental Leave policy by sharing my wife's Maternity Leave Entitlement. As parents up and down the land will know maternity, paternity and parental leave can be mind-bogglingly complicated but after wading through all the bureaucracy we worked out that my wife would take the first 6 months (and get diminishing amounts of money for the privilege) and I would take the following 3 months (and get paid the princely sum of £140 a week from the Government, and nothing from my employer).
The rules seemed pretty clear to me: an employer cannot refuse a request to take Shared Parental Leave. I submitted my request before Christmas and I planned to start my stint in May.
All seemed fine. Except it turns out that even the most outwardly-progressive of employers can find a way to avoid doing the right thing. In my case they simply made me redundant.
My employer wasn't only making me redundant but also robbing me of my Government-funded Shared Parental Leave money.
That's fairly elementary discrimination in my book and should be outlawed.
I've always been a feminist and the thing that always surprises me is that there are people who are not. Equality is a no-brainer for me. In my own case (barring a small miracle!) my wife will always earn more than I do and it made financial sense for our family for her to go back to work after 6 months and for me to become the primary carer for our daughter.
Being made redundant means it won't quite work out as easily - it's looking like I won't be able to take those 3 months off. It's hard to imagine an employer allowing me to start a new job and then take a 3-month sabbatical after a couple of months - maybe such organisations exist but I have yet to find one.
I'd like some kind of compensation from my former employer for the disruption they have caused and for the discrimination they are guilty of. There is never a good time to be made redundant but shortly after becoming a parent is probably one of the worst times to experience it.
WE's policies on shared parenting include introducing the same level of parental leave pay – six weeks at 90 percent of salary – for new dads as well as mums so that all new parents can spend time with their children and make true choices about how they balance work and family. WE will also introduce ten further months of leave at statutory pay to be shared between both parents, and will revolutionise childcare to provide free, government-funded childcare from the end of parental leave at 9 months to all children.
This is the way we should be approaching the problem. My experience has reinforced my longstanding belief that you should judge people and organisations by what they do, not what they say. Paying lip service to feminism is the easy bit; actually enforcing equality is more difficult and expensive.
I want to help my daughter grow up in a truly feminist world - and that means that I need to play my part, raise my voice and take action to bring it about.
Published March 15, 2016