When Piers Morgan called Daniel Craig an #emasculatedbond for carrying his daughter in a baby carrier, Twitter responded in the best way possible. Apart from feminists scoffing (and yes, I was one of them), dads from all walks of life tweeted pictures of themselves with babies in carriers. Society has shifted, but Piers didn’t get the memo.
What has this got to do with government? Plenty, actually. On Father’s Day this year, the TUC released figures showing that every year, 100,000 self-employed new dads don’t get a single day of paid paternity or shared parental leave. While on the one hand we have a £3 million government advertising campaign encouraging employees to take up shared parental leave, on the other hand it appears Piers Morgan has been advising the DWP on what to do with self-employed families.
As a self-employed mum, I was shocked to discover that I couldn’t take shared parental leave. I wasn’t asking for extra money from the government, only to be able to pass on the £140 a week allocation to my husband if I wanted to do a few weeks work during the first year. I wasn’t allowed to do that, and what’s more, if I wanted to go back to work for more than10 days I would have had to cancel my maternity allowance altogether.
In families where both partners are self-employed, only the mother qualifies for any kind of support in the form of Maternity Allowance. Fathers don’t get a single day of paid leave. As well as sending a message that wouldn’t seem out of place in The Handmaid’s Tale, the practical implications for families are enormous. Self-employed women have no maternity protections while they are off work, yet there is less support for them to keep in touch with their workplace than for employees. Since I started campaigning on this issue, I have had hundreds of letters from mothers whose careers have stagnated or disappeared completely, and from fathers who wish they could have spent more precious time with their young families.
Luckily, the government has a chance to learn from people other than Piers Morgan. Tomorrow, former Corrie actress and shadow early years minister, Tracy Brabin MP hopes to have her ‘#SelfieLeave Bill’ read for the second time in the House of Commons. If the government supports it, it will have a chance to banish both the Handmaid’s Tale hats and Piers Morgan from the Department for Work and Pensions. Perhaps they can invite Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz and their daughter round for a chat instead. I know who I’d rather hang out with.
The ‘Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Extension)’ aka the ‘SelfieLeave’ Bill is due for its second reading on Friday October 26th. Olga Fitzroy is the founder of Parental Pay Equality.