As we thought there would be, there's a problem with this shared parental leave

We should note that this idea of shared parental leave is something that stemmed from this very blog at least in its British incarnation - the incarnation of the policy, not the blog of course. We pointed out a number of years back, and have repeated ad nauseam, that we don't in fact have a gender pay gap. We've a pay gap caused by the gender bias in primary child carer within a family. This was picked up by varied LibDems and so we got shared parental leave.

If 50% of fathers become the primary child carer and only 50% of women do in their familial arrangements then that gender bias will disappear as will the gap. That is also pretty much he only way that the gap is going to disappear.

So, shared parental leave. Unfortunately, not many are taking it:

Launched in April 2015, the government scheme is supposed to help mothers go back to work and allow fathers to take a larger role in caring for their children by permitting parents to split almost a year of leave between them.

Yet the take-up has been pitiful. Just 1% of eligible parents took advantage of the scheme in the year to March, according to HM Revenue & Customs, and one of the biggest reasons so few are doing it is that it doesn’t make financial sense.

The reason it doesn't make financial sense is because there are two different sets of people paying maternity/parental leave.

There is the statutory amount, perhaps £140 a week, which is largely (some 90%) paid out of national insurance receipts - by the reduction in taxes paid by the employer. Then there is enhanced pay which is as with a normal wage cost to said employer. It's them paying some amount to retain the services of the employee and is just a regular cost to them of doing business, paying the workforce.

That enhanced pay is generally only on offer to women, men generally only being offered the statutory amount. Economic logic thus leads to many fewer men taking up the offer. Although, of course, we can be curmudgeonly about this and point out that if men don't value a cut in pay for months of their new child's life then they don't value being there for those months all that much.

The demand is now becoming that men should be offered that same enhanced pay as women. But that then runs into a horrible problem - for the enhanced pay is a cost the employer, not us all through the tax system, has to bear. We can, entirely righteously, all vote on how our tax money is spent, we cannot righteously insist upon how others spend their own money. 

At which point all is best left to the market itself. Just as with that enhanced pay to women of course. Employers pay it because they think it worth it to retain their employees. As and when enough fathers are interested in the same then they will no doubt be offered it - for exactly that same reason that women are. Because it benefits employers to do so.

This is, after all, how we solved the problem before so why not sue that same solution again?