The prime minister has been urged to instruct permanent secretaries to publish details of their departments’ parental leave policies and pay arrangements online.
In a letter to Theresa May dated 16 July, copies of which were sent to perm secs and secretaries of state, Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson said just two departments had this information publicly available.
She wrote: “I am disappointed, as I am sure you will be too, that currently of all the government departments only the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Defence published detailed information about their parental leave and pay policy on their websites.”
The Department for Transport and the Department for Education have since updated their websites to include parental leave policies.
In June, Swinson introduced a bill to parliament which would require all organisations with more than 250 employees to publish the details of their parental leave and pay policy. She is calling on May to support the bill.
In February the government initiated a campaign to encourage greater take-up of shared parental leave, which only 2% of couples take advantage of. The campaign is part of the government’s commitment to raise awareness of employment rights, and yet just four departments publish their policies online.
Swinson said on Twitter that “the civil service should set the gold standard for employers across the UK but on transparency of parental pay it is failing”.
In her letter Swinson said: “The civil service should always strive to set best employment for others to follow.” She added that May should instruct perm secs and secretaries of state to “make this small, light-touch change”.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The civil service offers a full range of parental leave, including shared parental and adoption leave, for which it pays occupational rates. Details of these policies are well publicised to employees online.”
There are plans to publish further details on gov.uk in the coming months, they added.
Swinson’s letter referred to the findings of a 2013 review by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, published in 2016, which she commissioned while she was minister for employment relations under the coalition government. It revealed that 54,000 people lose their jobs each year because they are pregnant and 77% of pregnant women and new mothers experience negative treatment in the workplace.
She said: “Greater transparency would spur employers to compete and would incentivise more generous parental pay policies. Job applicants would no longer need to ask about parental leave policy at interview, thus reducing the risk of discrimination during recruitment.”