IT'S such an obvious all-round win that the fact we are still lumbering along with outdated, gendered parental leave policies in the UK is jaw-dropping.

But here we are. Just six years on from the introduction of the "flagship" shared parental leave (SPL) system, and there are calls to scrap it as a "deeply flawed and chronically failing policy".

The idea was that parents could share the 39 statutory weeks available for maternity leave, an increase for fathers from the two week entitlement then in place.

Yet it was a policy laughably badly drawn, a complex system excluding dads in low paid and insecure work.

SPL cannot be claimed by those on zero-hours contracts, the self-employed or agency workers. The TUC estimated that 40% of fathers do not qualify for SPL. In comparison, 25% of dads don't qualify for the statutory two weeks' paternity leave.

Uptake of SPL is estimated to be anything from 2% to 8% - pathetically low levels.

The Westminster government promised a review of the policy with a report in 2019 with evaluation beginning in July 2018. Nearly three years on, the report is now promised at some vague point later this year.

A group of organisations are lobbying for change. Not to put too fine a point on it, the whole thing needs ripped up and re-done.

The most dads are paid under the current scheme is £150 a week and by the time the second parent takes SPL, they may not be paid at all. It's a class divided policy, a scheme for the privileged, giving secure, well-off families more options than those in low paid, insecure work. If you're employed by a progressive firm giving the option of extended paternity leave then you, and your child, are in a far better position than those not supported by more innovative companies.

The worst of the policy is that it removes hard fought for rights from women. It asks women to take a penalty for the greater good by giving up a chunk of their time with their newborn.

The benefits of equal parental leave are multifaceted with positives for mothers, fathers, society and, most vitally, children.

The current system shores up outdated gender roles: the mother is the default parent; is more likely to give up her career or go part time; and by extension takes on the bulk of the household chores.

Having men and women equally take time out of work for child rearing and be as likely to return full time or reduce their hours would lead to a narrowing of the pay gap and reverse the assumption men will be the breadwinner.

Importantly, fathers who have a greater role in their child's early years are more likely to have a greater involvement throughout their children's lives.

Some businesses give employees extended parental leave on full pay but businesses should not be left responsible for putting in place gold standard parental leave practices. It's a governmental responsibility and anything other than a consistent approach exacerbates inequality.

At Aviva, staff are offered 26 weeks full pay, regardless of sex, when they have a baby. Last year, 99% of new fathers at the company took paternity leave and 84% took at least six months.

Speaking in The Guardian, Danny Harmer, chief people officer at the firm, said "it just changes the conversation about who is the primary and secondary carer; it changes the mindset around hiring.

"It nudges people away from some of the bias – and I think it’s probably great for families and communities as well."

Certainly, for businesses, it makes good sense to have measures in place that retain and nurture talent.

In Sweden parents are given 480 paid days of parental leave with 90 of these being use-it-or-lose it for each parents. The thinking behind the scheme is that when child rearing is shared equally, the gender gap in the workplace shrinks and pay rises.

Swedes view SPL as a boon for the economy as it stops investment in women's education and experience going to waste.

Groups campaigning for a reform of SPL are asking the government to make changes in the forthcoming Employment Bill. They want a system that would give both parents non-transferable paid leave, such as is done in Sweden and Iceland where uptake of extended paternity leave is at 90%.

This is a sensible improvement on the current offer.

The Fawcett Society said that when it canvassed men, 70% of dads said fathers should be given better-paid and longer time off, demonstrating the demand is there. And yet we don't hear men demanding parental leave rights. Men's rights and father's rights are sticky subjects but it would be useful to hear more dads vocally pushing for change.

During the pandemic, gender equality has rolled backwards as women have been expected to take on the bulk of care and disproportionately sacrifice their work lives.

Women are repeatedly penalised for their reproductive choices in a way that men are not, and that has become ever more stark over the past 12 months.

It's time for change for a far more progressive and equitable system and it's time for men to join in that call for change.

It is simply not right that women are left to do all the labour.