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Flexible working: why organisations must stop ignoring working fathers

14th Jun 2019
working father at computer with daughter
iStock/Geber86

New fathers are involved in childcare more than ever before and want greater flexibility at work – so why are so many organisations ignoring them and what should we do about it?

It is becoming clear that millennial fathers are more active parents and want to be more involved day to day across all parenting areas. 

This is borne out by our most recent research report looking at the Millennial Dad at Work and by previous research we conducted last year with over 1,200 dads across the UK, which showed that nearly nine in ten dads were mostly or fully involved in all parenting duties. 

Despite the shifting dynamic that is happening at home, there is one vital area that still remains a barrier for modern day fathers - the workplace.

The results of Daddilife’s most recent research report have been startling:

  • The results showed that 63% of new dads at work have requested a change in working pattern since becoming a father, while 14% of millennial dads have requested to work from home between one and two days per week. Less than one in five of those dads (19%) were granted it. 
  • Nearly 40% of dads have requested a change in working hours, with 44% of them being unsuccessful.
  • Only 56% believed that fathers were treated equally to mothers in their workplaces.

Over half of all the dads (59%) surveyed believed that more flexible working is needed at their place of employment and the disparity between what dads are requesting to what is being offered is hugely significant.

New fathers are clearly calling on their employers to deliver the model of flexibility that matches this shift. 

With less than one in five being able to work from home one or two days a week, however, there are significant numbers of new fathers simply not being given the opportunity to work the way they want to.

Of equal concern is the insight that less than half of the dads surveyed thought they were treated equally to mothers in the workplace. 

In fact, there’s an argument to be made that new fathers are going through a similar workplace/flexibility struggle to that which new mothers went through a generation ago. 

The worrying issue in that comparison is that many would argue that there is still much to do for mothers who need flexibility in the workplace. Therefore, in creating a pathway to true gender equality at work, there are a range of tensions we need to understand and soothe.

Tensions at work are all around 

Our research found that 45% of working fathers regularly experienced tension from their employer when trying to balance work and family life. 

This not only demonstrates a growing disconnect between home and the workplace, but it also showed that management attitudes toward modern day fathers are at a significant contrast to the day-to-day reality.

It isn’t just a management issue either, with 39% regularly experiencing tension from colleagues.   

37% admit that their mental health is negatively affected as a result of trying to balance work and parental responsibilities. 

When we asked dads in the research about this tension, the main issues that they experienced ranged from comments around dads ‘leaving on time’ through to difficulties booking holidays or colleagues believing that dads who were not in the office were simply taking ‘time off.’ 

At a time where the greatest management practices are based on employee trust and value, what employers need to be concerned about is the rate at which dads are voting with their feet.

The retention problem

One third of new dads we surveyed had already changed jobs since becoming a father, with another third actively looking to change. 

Think about that for a second – two thirds (34%) of new fathers in your workplace have either left or are actively looking – primarily because of their workplace flexibility needs.

This is simply not a problem that can be ignored any longer.

Beyond a retention issue, 37% admit that their mental health is negatively affected as a result of trying to balance work and parental responsibilities. 

At a time when our working patterns are ‘always on’, pressure is on parents - so it’s vital we start to challenge and change the conversation when it comes to new dads at work.

Changing the conversation for new dads

It is good to see that in the first six months of this year, we have seen a progressive change in paternity leave policies across increasing numbers of large organisations - and I’m looking at you here O2, Diageo in particular - than across the entire last 24 months combined. 

The top employers are clearly recognising the need for change, and we want to do our bit to help drive that change even quicker.

As an organisation focused on fatherhood, we are campaigning for action. Every HR colleague has the power now to challenge and shift how the modern era of work complements rather than contrasts with how modern day dads want to parent.

How will you change the conversation for new dads where you work?

Interested in this topic? Read Inclusion means everyone... doesn’t it? Why gender equality is about men, just as much as it is about women.

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