New-child leave claim

This is a draft of a proposed Cardiff UCU claim. We very much welcome feedback from members about this draft claim before we submit it to Cardiff University.

Achieving equality in workplaces requires concrete measures that address challenges with recruitment, retention and progression of staff. There is a vicious cycle of gender inequality relating to family duties and care. Women, who often already face less favourable career prospects, generally carry heavier care burdens that further hinder career progression and struggle more to achieve a heathy work life balance. One prevailing issue causing this talent gap is parental leave discrimination.

Cardiff University’s leave policies regarding the arrival of a new child contributes to gender discrimination. For example, policies do not allow partners to take leave in equal circumstances as women who give birth, both in terms of time off and salary coverage. For example, the University offers 18 weeks of full-pay maternity leave, but only one week at full pay to partners. In practice, this makes it financially impossible for partners to share parental leave, and it makes Cardiff University the joint-worst employer among the Russell Group for partner leave.

Despite recent improvements to maternity policies, Cardiff University still does not lead the way with them. Universities like Bristol, Exeter, Manchester and Southampton are offering 26 weeks full paid maternity leave, while staff here get 18 weeks of paid leave and 8 weeks at half-pay. For staff on lower salaries, the 50% cut in their salaries after 18 weeks often prevents them from being able to stay home with their child for as long as those with greater full-pay provision.

Cardiff University’s length of service restrictions on paid parental leave, unlike other universities (e.g., Exeter, UCL, Oxford) is clearly disadvantageous to women, who have little choice regarding their ability to work after giving birth. It also disadvantages those on long-term casualised work (also tendentially women) who work for the University for many years but with short career gaps that render them ineligible for leave.

Finally, the language used in policies can shape their understanding and perceptions of inclusivity. Adopting gender-neutral language that also acknowledges diversity in circumstances leading to childcare duties (e.g., significant childcare responsibilities for a child of family member sharing the household) could help to create the safe space for everyone who needs leave to make an application.

Demonstrably, other protected characteristics such as disability, race, religion, gender identification or sexual orientation suffer from similar challenges to those of gender (and can be intersected), meaning that relatively simple measures can have big and wide impacts in addressing long-standing inequality problems. 

Hence, Cardiff UCU challenges Cardiff University:

  • To take the lead as a progressive employer and create a general gender-neutral ‘New-Child Leave’. This leave would offer 26 weeks of full-paid leave, 13 weeks of statutory leave and 13 weeks of unpaid leave to all staff who take on responsibility for a new child coming into their household (e.g. birth, formal or informal adoption); 
  • To eliminate time of service requirements on this New-Child Leave; 
  • To adopt a leave policy that reflects the variety of ways people come to be responsible for a child and the variety of ways families are arranged. Policies should use gender-neutral and fully inclusive language, including changing ‘maternity’, ‘paternity, ‘shared parental, and ‘adoption’ leaves to new-child leave’.

Such a change in policy will have a real impact in promoting equality across genders and other protected characteristics. These are also the kind of measures more likely to attract and retain staff and to contribute to staff satisfaction and well-being.