Fathers struggle to get the flexible work they need, says survey

Men face many of the same problems with work-life balance as women, and may switch jobs as a result

Working fathers are facing many of the same issues around flexibility that women have been experiencing for years, a new survey of parents has found.

The poll of nearly 3,000 people found that fathers in the workplace struggled to secure the flexible hours they needed to balance work and home life and faced stigma from line managers and colleagues when they worked flexibly.

The survey, conducted by Working Dads and Working Mums, found that two in five working fathers who applied for flexible working had their requests turned down.

One in five working dads with flexible arrangements felt discriminated against by their managers and co-workers. And a quarter reported that their line manager did not understand the pressures of juggling work with family life.

In the survey one in 10 working dads said they had quit a job after having a flexible working request turned down, compared to 45 per cent of working mums. Nearly seven in 10 working dads (69 per cent) felt stuck in their current role because of concerns they would not find another job with the right flexibility, compared to 80 per cent of working mums.

Commenting on the statistics, Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said flexibility needed to be available to everyone in the workplace. “We know that flexible working is as much a priority for working dads as it is for mums and carers,” she said. “We want to see all jobs flexible unless there is a good business reason for them not to be.”

Smethers also called for longer, better-paid leave for dads in the first year of a child’s life, adding: "We need to transform workplace culture to normalise men taking periods of parental leave. It's not the 1950s any more, but our leave system behaves as if it is."

The survey found that far more mothers worked part time – 43 per cent, compared to just 4 per cent of fathers.

In all, a third (33 per cent) of parents felt discriminated against for working flexibly, and 62 per cent of those on parental leave said they would consider another job if their flexible working request was turned down.

James Millar, editor of Working Dads, said more employers embracing flexible working would “improve the lives of all parents”. 

He said: “More parents are researching what family support is available at the application stage when looking for work, and a growing proportion will change job in search of the right working conditions.

“Employers that want to attract and retain the best talent must offer flexible working if they want to thrive in the workplace of the future.”

Flexible working is rising up the agenda for businesses, and the CIPD is co-chairing a government taskforce to examine ways to encourage employers to be more flexible.