Companies: Parental Leave Practices - Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:11 pm on 10th July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Liberal Democrat 3:11 pm, 10th July 2019

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect to issue their consultation on requiring transparency in publishing parental leave practices for companies with over 250 employees.

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, this proposal was announced last October. The department has been engaging with business and those representing employees to gather their views on the proposal and how to make it work. A public consultation on the Government’s proposed measures will be published in due course.

Photo of Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Burt of Solihull Liberal Democrat

I am grateful for that Answer and glad that the Government have finally announced that the public consultation will be this summer. I welcome the Government’s aspiration in the initial statement towards an inclusive economy. Does the Minister therefore agree that the requirement to publish parental leave policies would, as with the gender pay gap, shine a light on which companies are inclusive and help potential recruits to make good decisions about the best company for them, without inviting potential embarrassment and even rejection by having to ask about parental leave policies at the interview?

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very fair point. The purpose of requiring employers to publish parental leave and pay policies is so that applicants can make an informed decision about whether to combine a job with caring for their families. At present, as she will be aware, applicants must ask prospective employers for details of parental leave and pay policies. Many people are reluctant to do this, which is why my right honourable friend made that announcement and why we are working towards this. As I said, we hope to publish the consultation soon.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, according to figures from the department for business for last year, some 285,000 couples are eligible every year for shared parental leave. However, the department’s figures outline that the take-up could be as low as 2%. Can the Minister outline his understanding of why there is such a low take-up and, probably more importantly, what the Government and his department will do to deal with it?

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, again it is fair to say that the noble Lord is right to highlight that there has been a low take-up of shared parental leave. We will want to look at this to make sure that people can benefit from it. We will work on that, but I give him an assurance that that is what the department is doing.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, picking up on that point, research done this year at the University of Birmingham indicates that it is not just parents or potential parents who have low knowledge of shared parental leave; it is also the managers and HR departments within companies themselves. Will the Minister undertake to have an enhanced information campaign within businesses to improve uptake of shared parental leave?

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I am more than happy to look at that because there is no point in introducing new measures to assist new employees if the employers, HR departments and others do not know about them. I am not aware of the research the noble Lord has highlighted but I am happy to look at it.