A report released by UNICEF yesterday has revealed that some of least family friendly policies in the OECD can sadly be found in the United Kingdom.
UK a cold place for families
The report looked at paid leave available to fathers and mothers, showing that the UK ranks 28th for fathers and 34th for mothers out of the 41 OECD countries.
In the UK statutory maternity pay for new mothers is paid for up to 39 weeks, with 90% average weekly earnings for 6 weeks and then whichever is lower between £148.68 per week (well below national minimum wage) or 90% average weekly earning for 33 weeks. Paternity leave is only two weeks.
In contrast the most generous countries are those in Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Bulgaria and Estonia, who all have family friendly policies of more than 65 weeks maternity leave.
Shared parental leave is available in the UK but the take up rate is quite low. When the Government introduced the policy, they estimated a take up rate of 2-8%. This could be due to financial obstacles or the complex way the system is implemented.
As Liam Sollis, head of policy at Unicef UK, was quoted in the Telegraph saying: “While the UK government is taking steps to review and raise awareness of family friendly policies, take-up of shared parental leave, particularly amongst fathers, remains unacceptably low, and governments and businesses need to do more to tackle the financial, cultural and administrative obstacles that many families face.’
CARE has worked for many years challenging the Government to promote family friendly policies, with our calls sadly often falling on deaf ears. We have focussed particularly on the tax system and the way that it punishes families where one spouse chooses to stay at home to look after children. We believe that the current system presents a financial barrier to people both entering marriage and married people trying to help their family flourish. That’s why we’ve campaigned to extend the marriage allowance beyond the tokenistic 10% it is currently set at.
Commenting, Family Policy Officer Jonathan Williams said:
“This new report is no surprise with a Government strong on rhetoric but slow on action when it comes to supporting families. The UK fares badly when it compared to other OECD countries, and that should be a source of shame for a Conservative Government who supposedly back marriage and families. CARE has called out these policies for many years, with our work focussing on the punishing environment that our tax system creates for families. This report shows that inadequate parental leave is also contributing to that environment.”
CARE's response published in the Telegraph
In response to the report, CARE's James Mildred had a letter published in the Daily Telegraph. You can read the letter here. The letter, in full was as follows:
The news that Britain has some of the worst family-friendly policies in the OECD should cause all our politicians to sit up and take notice. For far too long, the Government’s rhetoric on family policy has not been matched by action. Weak family policies contribute towards Britain’s family breakdown crisis, which costs a staggering £51bn. Yet strong families are the bedrock of a stable society.
I wonder, will the candidates in the Conservative leadership content commit to promoting family-friendly policies? They could start by engaging with the Manifesto to Strengthen Families, signed by more than 60 MPs and Peers. It contains many excellent ideas, including increasing the marriage tax allowance, which is currently only 10 per cent. Encouraging marriage as the gold standard of commitment goes hand in hand with promoting family policies. The new Prime Minister must commit to backing both.
Christian Action Research and Education (CARE)
London, SW1P 3RF