The Women’s Equality Party launched their policies last week and what a launch it was. There was cheering and shouting, joyous laughter and tears. I cried, I cried with relief because this was the first time I could really get behind a party that felt like it just ‘got it’.
For the purpose of clarity I have picked out 15 ways the policies directly impact on fathers. Of course, all of the policies impact on men and women alike, and that is GOOD. Equality IS better for everyone.
This policy paper changes things for fathers. They have been mentioned in policy papers before but it felt piece-meal and small compared with this. Parenting policies that continue to change things for mothers bt do not change things for fathers maintain a situation that does not reflect the experiences or expectations of mothers and fathers. The critics will say it does not go far enough, and those who are insistent that the status quo be maintained will feel it goes too far. One thing is for sure, it has taken a political party focused on the inequalities of women to identify the inequalities for men. This is despite the main parties being full of men.
- WE are campaigning for equal parenting and caregiving and shared responsibilities at home to give everyone equal opportunities both in family life and in the work place.
- Equal and paid leave for 6 weeks at 90% of wage for fathers with an additional 10 months to be shared between mothers and fathers.
- Fathers and same-sex partners should have paid leave to attend ante-natal scans with their partner.
- New fathers and same-sex partners are not “visitors” on a labour or post-natal ward, but new parents who should be permitted to be with their partner and new child at all times, if their partner chooses. WE will require all hospitals to adopt this approach.
- WE will require baby-changing facilities to be equally available to all genders in all public buildings, and work with businesses to ensure this is delivered in privately owned premises, too.
- Fathers, mothers and same-sex partners will both be expected to be present to register the birth of their child, with separate interviews so questions can be raised by the birth mother alone if needed.
- WE will review all government publications and services – and material handed out in public premises – to ensure they promote a narrative that raising children is a whole family responsibility however families are formed.
- WE will encourage and support men who wish to take on caring roles in work and in the home through our efforts to tackle gender stereotyping in schools (set out in the Education chapter) and our commitment to making parental leave a reality for fathers and same-sex partners.
- To encourage fathers to engage more closely with their children’s education, WE will promote the Fathers Reading Every Day (FRED) scheme introduced by the Fatherhood Institute in nurseries and primary schools.
- WE will work with campaigners, schools and experts to recruit more men into childcare and primary teaching.
- WE will speak out against media portrayals that stereotype gendered parenting roles, including those which demean fathers as bumbling or incompetent carers and homemakers.
- WE will work to provide publicly-funded relationship support which promotes child-centred shared parenting arrangements, co-parenting and financial mediation for all families going through separation.
- WE will conduct a full review of the benefit system to rethink the requirement that one parent is “resident” and the other “non-resident”, as this significantly limits the options for shared parenting among low income families.
- WE will enact legal protection for cohabiting couples who have children or have been together for more than two years, including access to mediation, advice and support. This will include protecting those married under religious law without having been married in a civil ceremony.
- WE will work to build a general social and legal expectation of the full involvement of both parents in the lives of their children even if the parents are not together, unless there is a pattern of violence or clear risk to either parent or child.