I write with reference to Philippa Dolan’s article of 24 February, ‘Women and children first’. Philippa writes that some judges ‘still seem to inhabit a 1950s world of soft, vulnerable wives in pinnies who need protecting. It is as if the last 50 years never happened.’
This misses two points.
First, the current legislation seeks to protect children and avoid discrimination against the person who may have stayed at home to care for them. That is usually the wife, although less so these days. Many parents choose not to delegate the care of children to third parties but wish to raise them themselves. This may also be for financial reasons; childcare remains phenomenally expensive. For those who are not high-earners, there may be minimal (if any) financial advantage when childcare costs are offset against income.
Often the toll on family life of both parents working outweighs the fiscal advantages. Ultimately these are personal decisions, but our society should not penalise the caregiver – for the sake of the children – as the obvious consequence must be that fewer parents will risk staying at home.
Second, statistics show that there is a long way to go before we can say that there is equality in the workplace. It remains difficult to find a job if you have spent a prolonged period out of the market.
We want our children to be emotionally healthy and financially secure. We must ensure parents who may have been made vulnerable as a consequence of the birth of their children are protected by society. This is about respecting those who nurture, but do not earn, rather than about gender.
Emily Brand, partner, family law, Winckworth Sherwood, London SE1