Almost three-quarters of dads want more flexible working

16 Jan 2017 By Peter Crush

Experts warn of ‘fatherhood penalty’ for those seeking a less stressful job to give them more time to spend with family

Unsympathetic employers that don’t offer flexible working options means many working dads are facing a ‘fatherhood penalty’ if they want to take part in family life more fully, warns new research from Working Families and Bright Horizons.

According to the 2017 Modern Families Index report, almost three-quarters (70 per cent) of dads want to work more flexibly to accommodate activities such as dropping and picking their children up from school – which 25 per cent of dads are already involved with daily.

A tenth (11 per cent) of the 2,750 respondents said their boss makes no allowances at all for their family life, and nearly half (47 per cent) of working fathers said they would rather downsize into a less stressful job altogether. A further third (38 per cent) said they’d rather do a job that involved taking a pay cut if it meant they had more family time.

The ‘fatherhood penalty’ – where fathers deliberately stall their careers as they seek to find better ways to combine work with family life – is a worrying development, said Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families. Bosses must now find ways to make work fit for both men and women, she added.

"Employers need to make all roles flexible by default, and having a healthy dose of realism about what can be done in the hours available to people is absolutely vital,” said Jackson. “A game-changing first step would be government creating properly paid, extended periods of paternity leave – which would send out a clear signal that government recognises the aspirations of modern fathers.”

A third of working fathers surveyed said they felt ‘burned out’ at work, while a further fifth (20 per cent) said their employer was, at-best, unsympathetic about childcare. Nearly half (44 per cent) of dads said they had lied about family commitments that could be seen as ‘getting in the way’ of work.

‘Millennial fathers’ are feeling the work-life conflict most keenly; 53 per cent of fathers in this demographic said they wanted to switch to a less stressful job to make more time for their home lives, and a further 48 per cent said they would be willing to take a pay cut if it meant giving them a job that enabled work and family life to be more equally balanced.

As pressure mounts on the government to offer more supporting for working parents, the women and equalities select committee has today launched an inquiry about the level of support fathers receive from employers. The consultation closes on 1 March.

Maria Miller, chair of the committee, said: “The Modern Families Index shines a much-needed light on the experiences of British fathers in the workplace. Many fathers want to take a more active role in caring for their children and our committee’s inquiry into the gender pay gap last year found that sharing caring responsibilities equally between mothers and fathers was key.”

The report also found that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of parents have to do extra work in the evenings and at weekends, with one-fifth putting in an extra five weeks per year of additional work. Half of parents surveyed agreed that work-life balance is an increasing source of stress.

“The workplace needs to be equal for all, and [neither men nor women] should not be penalised for taking the time to have a family,” said Amanda Fennell, senior director, EMEA at Xactly. “Instead of paying people based on their position and tenure, employees must be rewarded for their output. Only by moving beyond the outdated pay gap can we secure the UK’s success for the future and wellbeing of the workforce.”

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