By Claire West
New research from My Family Care into the mind-sets of working fathers in the UK has found that nearly two thirds (60%) of fathers who have children under school age say they don’t have a working pattern that suits them.
A quarter (28%) of all fathers say they are unhappy with their work-life balance and more than half (53%) say they want to work in a different way to their current working pattern, either by having the ability to work remotely from home or leave the office an hour earlier.
On the flipside, half (50%) of the fathers surveyed said they felt that working flexibly was perceived as a sign of lack of commitment and, as a result, were afraid of asking. 42% also said they worried it would affect their career progression.
The survey of 1,000 working fathers and 30 one-to-one interviews featured fathers from a range of sectors and seniority levels.
Most fathers said that while society had changed dramatically, with many of their female partners working, old school attitudes in the workplace still prevailed. The general attitude that the working woman should take more responsibility for their children still remained. This meant that when a childcare emergency occurred there was a general sense amongst the office of “Can’t your wife deal with it?” Many of the one-to-one respondents felt this was down to a generational gap, where male senior managers, with grown-up children, were married to stay-at-home mothers meaning they don’t understand the issues that modern day fathers face from a practical, emotional or a cultural sense.
Ben Black, Director of My Family Care, which commissioned the research says: “Today, two out of three mothers are in employment. This means that once the maternity leave period of parenthood comes to an end, many working couples share childcare responsibilities equally. As a result the role of the father has changed dramatically over the last 20 years and they want more flexibility and understanding from their employer. They are afraid to ask because of the perceived stigma and impact on their careers. In order to keep their workforce engaged and retain their best talent, businesses need to overcome generational differences and tackle the problems head on. An engaged workforce is a productive workforce. ”
The research also asked fathers for their thoughts on Shared Parental Leave. Just one in five (20%) said they had seen any impact of it in their company or organisation. However, half (49%) of fathers who were planning another child were open to the idea of sharing parental leave with their partner, showing the likelihood of a rise in uptake in the future.
Al Ferguson, founder of The Dad Network, an online support network for fathers, says: "It's a concern that so many Dads feel like their work and family life isn't balanced. And an even greater concern that they feel they can't approach their workplace to discuss more flexibility. Work-life balance is a personal thing and different for everyone, but these stats show a trend that Dads feel like they're getting it wrong. There are companies out there who recognise the significance of family life but others who are missing a trick.
“Getting a good work-life balance is crucial to effective parenting and those parents that have jobs where it's difficult (or indeed impossible) to be flexible, must find this incredibly hard. Getting home in time for bathtime is hugely important for me as it allows me more opportunity to bond with my son, Ted. If I couldn't do this, my relationship would be very different with him.”