The shared parental leave framework: Failing to fit working-class families?

Gemma Mitchell, Charlotte Bendall

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Shared Parental Leave has the potential to tackle a traditional gendered binary of roles within the family, by encouraging more men to care. Such legal provisions can operate to shape behaviour, both in terms of what they permit practically, but also from a normative perspective, conveying ideas around the best way to perform ‘family.’ However, placing particular focus on the latter, we assert that Shared Parental Leave does not speak to working-class parents. We initially consider whether the ‘heteronormative’ family may, in itself, be a middle-class problem, before highlighting the incompatibility of legislative ambitions of ‘equal parenting’ with working-class ways of living. ‘Equal parenting,’ as embodied within the legislation, imposes ideals that sit at odds with working-class people’s attitudes, whilst assuming a two-parent family which is often incongruous with working-class family forms. Ultimately, we favour a more holistic approach towards breaking down ‘heteronormative’ notions of women’s and men’s roles, to enable people to make more meaningful choices about their lives that are not constrained by gender.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-320
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Discrimination and the Law
Issue number4
Early online date30 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Family
  • care
  • class
  • employment
  • heteronormativity
  • parenting

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