Organisations failing to support working fathers’ flexibility needs

Research finds almost half of dads experience ‘tension’ from their employer when trying to balance work and family life

A majority of working dads are struggling to find the flexibility they need to balance their work and parenting responsibilities, a study has found, with many facing the same obstacles experienced by mothers in the workplace.

Experts said the research highlighted that stigma around flexible working existed for anyone with care responsibilities, and said line managers needed to be trained to recognise the business case for flexibility.

The poll of more than 2,000 fathers aged between 24 and 40, conducted by parenting website DaddiLife, alongside Deloitte, for its report The Millennial Dad At Work, found that the vast majority of fathers (87 per cent) were now mostly or fully involved in the day-to-day duties of parenting and that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of new dads had requested some change in their working patterns.

However, while over half (56 per cent) of those requesting a change in their working hours were successful, just 19 per cent of those asking to work from home for between one and two days a week were given permission.



Similarly, respondents reported experiencing regular tension from their employer (45 per cent) and colleagues (39 per cent) when trying to balance work and family life, with leaving on time was cited as the biggest single issue causing this tension.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said the results demonstrated that a stigma still exists around flexible working – particularly in workplaces where there was a traditional nine-to-five working culture or in sectors such as financial and professional services where there is an expectation that serving the client is the overarching priority.

“The critical thing is, if it is an organisational culture issue then it is a leadership challenge – so you do need real direction showing that it’s OK, that flexible working is part of an organisation’s culture,” Willmott said.

“That means senior leaders remodelling some of these behaviours, leaving early, being flexible to address their own work-life balance. That sends a very clear signal that this is how we want to operate as a business.”

He added that line managers need to be trained to recognise the business case for flexibility.

“Increasingly there is an expectation that flexibility is something that should be offered in the modern workplace. And people will leave – they will not be able to show the same commitment if they’re not given that type of flexibility. That needs to come through in how managers manage people.”

The research also found a third (33 per cent) of new fathers have already changed jobs since becoming a parent, with one in four (39 per cent) moving for a better work-life balance, with another 32 per cent actively looking for a new role.

The role of line managers and HR were cited as key to solving these issues, with 62 per cent of respondents believing line managers needed to be training specifically around dads in the workplace.

Han-Son Lee, the founder of DaddiLife, said the organisation had seen a real gap in provisions for new fathers who needed support navigating paternity leave, flexible working, and dealing with their employers.

“What is clear from our research is that society is changing fast and if organisations want to retain their best employees, government and business need to drive meaningful change for a new generation of fathers.”