The UK’s Shared Parental Leave law was intended to encourage working parents to more evenly split up the burden of caring for infant children by allowing new mothers (or “lead parents” in same-sex couples) 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory pay to divide between themselves and their partners in any proportion they choose. Since being enacted in April 2015, however, the SPL policy has failed to garner much uptake: The latest research shows that even though plenty of parents are taking leave, just a few took advantage of this policy last year, Emily Burt reports at People Management:
[F]igures published by law firm EMW found that, while 661,000 mothers and 221,000 fathers took maternity and paternity leave in the year to March 2017, only 8,700 parents took SPL. “Many new parents are unclear about how the system will work for their families and careers,” warned Jon Taylor, principal at EMW. “Fathers in particular could be concerned about coming across as less committed to their job if they ask for greater flexibility, deterring them from looking into it.” …
Separate figures obtained by People Management in June revealed that fewer than 7,500 men had taken SPL in the past year, with experts suggesting that they had been deterred by the ‘complexity’ of the rules. Meanwhile, CIPD data from December 2016 found that just 5 per cent of new fathers had opted to take SPL.
Previous studies have shown persistently low take-up of this benefit, which has left architects of the policy and advocates of mainstreaming paternity leave scratching their heads as to why it hasn’t caught on. The hundreds of thousands of fathers taking parental leave suggests that the problem is not one of insufficient demand.
Last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget announced that it was putting on hold a rule proposed by the Obama administration in 2016 that would have required organizations with more than 100 employees to submit summary pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year showing what employees of each gender, race, and ethnicity earn. This reversal relieves employers of what opponents say are overly burdensome and costly regulations that would do nothing to address pay gaps.
For large employers in California, however, that relief may be short-lived. At the firm’s blog about California employment law, Seyfarth Shaw attorneys point to a piece of legislation that went to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk this week that would “require companies with at least 500 employees to compute differences between the wages of male and female exempt employees and board members located in California and file the report with the California Secretary of State,” which would then publish this information for public view:
If the bill is signed by Gov. Brown, beginning on July 1, 2019, and biennially thereafter, impacted employers will have to collect and compute:
- The difference between the wages of male and female exempt employees in California using both the mean and median wages in each job classification or title.
- The difference between the mean and median wages of male board members and female board members located in California.
- The number of employees used for these determinations.
This information would then be reported to the California SOS by January 1, 2020 (and biennially thereafter) on a form categorized consistent with Labor Code Section 1197.5—the California Fair Pay Act (“FPA”).
The bill, they add, does not establish that a gender wage gap in this information is a violation of the Fair Pay Act, but opponents claim it would not need to, as it “effectively forces employers to hand over to potential plaintiffs all information they might need to file a lawsuit, without any context that would explain permissible differentials.”
Three women have filed a lawsuit against Google, their former employer, in which they accuse the tech giant of systematically discriminating against women in pay and career development, and their lawyer is seeking class action status for the claim, the Associated Press reported on Thursday:
The suit, led by lawyer James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon LLP, is on behalf of three women — Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri — who all quit after being put on career tracks that they claimed would pay them less than their male counterparts. The suit aims to represent thousands of Google employees in California and seeks lost wages and a slice of Google’s profits.
“I have come forward to correct a pervasive problem of gender bias at Google,” Ellis said in a statement. She says she quit Google in 2014 after male engineers with similar experience were hired to higher-paying job levels and she was denied a promotion despite excellent performance reviews. “It is time to stop ignoring these issues in tech.”
The lawsuit, which has been in the works since June, follows an investigation by the US Labor Department that claimed to find “systemic compensation disparities against women” throughout the company. Google has strongly disputed the department’s allegations, insisting that it has no gender pay gap and publishing its pay methodology in April in an effort to refute them, and a judge ruled that the company did not have to hand over all the detailed pay data the government had demanded. Nonetheless, Finberg has said the suit is based partly on the Labor Department’s analysis.
HR leaders from dozens of organizations attended a session on women in leadership at our ReimagineHR event last week in London. Participants in the session, a majority of whom were women, expressed frustration with the fact that so many organizations worldwide are still having trouble advancing gender balance in their leadership. When asked why they thought this was the case, the attendees identified two main themes: bias and flexibility.
The Impact of Bias on Talent Management
According to our research, if you are human, you are biased: The human mind takes in 11 million pieces of information per second, yet we can only consciously process 40 pieces of information per second. Because of this discrepancy, bias is inevitable, particularly unconscious bias. People cannot be counted on to effectively and consistently catch their own biases. To solve this problem, organizations should focus not only on removing bias at the individual level, but also at the level of process. You can’t prevent people from having biases, but you can mitigate the impact of those biases on the decisions your organization makes.
Many of the participants at ReimagineHR are taking new approaches to addressing bias in talent management. We often hear about organizations working to remove bias from the hiring process by removing any identifying characteristics from an individual’s application or resume, but some participants in our session said the opposite approach had been working for their organizations. These participants shared examples of how they actually leveraged data on women’s representation in their talent pipelines to raise awareness of gender gaps.
Over the past few years, we have seen a growing number of organizations in the US and around the world introduce or expand parental leave benefits for new fathers in their workforce, as well as new mothers, in response to increasing demand for paternity leave and greater work-life balance for working parents in general, particularly among millennials who are starting families. Recent court cases both in the US and in the UK have advanced the argument that granting more parental leave to mothers than to fathers (beyond the additional medical leave to which women who have just given birth are entitled) constitutes gender discrimination.
These lawsuits point to the increasing importance of paternity leave in employee perceptions of their total rewards packages. Our research at CEB (now Gartner) shows that employees are sensitive to changes in both maternity and paternity leave. However, increasing paternity leave actually has a slightly greater impact on employee perceptions of rewards than increasing maternity leave, likely because paternity leave is rarer and more variable across companies.
As a forthcoming benchmark report on employee rewards preferences will show, employees globally also tend to get more utility out of lower levels of paternity leave than maternity leave. That is, employees are more sensitive to an additional two weeks of paternity leave than they are to the same additional amount of maternity leave.
Yet this does not mean that maternity leave is not valuable or important!
A few months after a public disclosure of high-earner compensation data revealed a significant pay gap between male and female stars at the BBC, the UK’s national broadcaster has announced a series of investigations into its pay practices and gender pay gap. BBC Director General Tony Hall revealed on Wednesday that he had commissioned PwC and the law firm Eversheds Sutherland to conduct an independent equal pay audit of the company, which will also produce an internal report on the gender pay gap and conduct a review of pay and diversity among its on-air talent:
Speaking to staff on Wednesday, Lord Hall said the BBC report on gender pay would cover the whole corporation and be independently audited, adding that he is “determined to close the gap”. … He said [the external audit] would “make sure that, where there are differences in pay, they’re justified”, adding: “If it throws up issues, we’ll deal with them immediately.”
The review of on-air talent will focus on presenters, editors and correspondents in BBC News and radio, he said. “Of course, we’ll be looking at pay – but also representation,” he said. “As I hope you know, we’ve set really ambitious targets – not just on gender, but on diversity more broadly.
In response to Hall, several leading women at the BBC circulated a statement on Twitter under the hashtag #BBCWomen, in which they stressed that the director “must be in no doubt about how serious an issue equal and fair pay is for women across the organisation,” and suggested that the target date he had previously set of 2020 for closing the gender pay gap was not soon enough:
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit on behalf of an employee at the beauty products manufacturer Estée Lauder Companies, accusing the company of discriminating against male employees by awarding different amounts of paid parental leave to mothers and fathers, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, the EEOC is acting on behalf of a stock worker in Maryland, who sought to take advantage of the child-bonding leave benefit Estée Lauder offers to new mothers and was given just two weeks of leave as opposed to the six weeks mothers receive (on top of the time they are allowed to take off to recover from childbirth). New mothers also allegedly are offered flexible return-to-work benefits that are not available to fathers.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC is arguing that this policy violates the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and demanding back pay, damages, and injunctive relief for the stock worker and other male employees affected by the policy. US employers are not required by law to offer paid parental leave, but for those that do, the commission’s official position is that these benefits should be equally available to parents of both genders, except for medical leave benefits related to pregnancy and childbirth, which of course can be reserved for women.
In another discrimination complaint filed with the EEOC in June, JPMorgan Chase employee Derek Rotondo claimed that the bank’s parental leave policy discriminated against him and other working fathers by “relying on a sex-based stereotype that mothers are the primary caretakers of children.” JPMorgan Chase offers different benefits to “primary” and “secondary” caregivers—and according to Rotondo’s allegations, automatically designates mothers as primary caregivers but requires fathers to meet a set of eligibility criteria. The EEOC has not yet taken legal action on Rotondo’s behalf, but this case again reflects the growing pressure on companies not to discriminate between mothers and fathers in their parental leave policies.