By Han Son Lee, Founder of Daddilife

These are strange times indeed. As we settle into a very different way of working over the next few months with many of us having to balance looking after children, home schooling and working from home, businesses are having to adapt quickly to remote working and being more flexible with work hours.

Daddilife has long argued the benefits of improved paternity pay and better flexible working for dads. As more fathers now actively parent, the benefits of flexible working to family life are obvious. Less strain on relationships and more of an equal distribution of childcare between both parents. Sadly, for many employers, the benefits have not been obvious and despite changing attitudes towards parenting within families, flexible working for men is still not considered the norm.

We conducted new research into this issue last year in collaboration with Deloitte and found that the lack of empathy from employers has had a detrimental affect on working dads. The Millennial Dad at Work research surveyed over 2000 dads across the UK and found that nearly 9 in 10 were mostly or fully involved in all parenting duties. It also found that millennial fathers are more actively involved in parenting than ever before and want to be involved across all parenting areas but in order to do this, they need to be able to work flexibly.

Some of the other key results from the research that shine a light on this issue include:

  • 63% of new dads at work have requested a change in working pattern since becoming a father.
  • 14% of all the dads surveyed had requested to work from home between 1-2 days per week, but less than 1 in 5 of those dads (19%) were granted it.
  • Nearly 40% of dads have requested a change in working hours with 44% of them being unsuccessful.
  • 37% admit that their mental health is negatively affected as a result of trying to balance work and parental responsibilities
With less than 1 in 5 fathers being able to work from home 1-2 days a week, there are significant numbers of new fathers simply not being given the opportunity to work the way they want to.

I hope that in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, we start to see a change in mindshift from employers and a shift away from the old 9-5 office based routine. We’re living at an extreme time where dads are balancing on one hand the changing needs of their teams, while on the other hand their children being on their kid scooters in the garden! It’s a lot to manage, but it might just set a positive new precedent moving forward. Here is my wishlist for the future of work from now onwards:

  • I hope that this experience shows us that a two tier system of flexible working isn’t good for anyone and that both mums and dads have similar needs. Helping Dads to communicate their needs and desires about work life balance is vital to move the conversation on about flexible and part time working away from just being a female ‘issue’ to becoming a people issue.
  • Becoming a parent is a massive life change – as much for men as it is for women. Men face the challenge of limited leave and the financial and cultural pressures of being the sole breadwinner on reduced income. It’s tough, and 25% of men show signs of post natal depression and 80% feel the pressure of being “the rock”. Firms that offer maternity return to work coaching or mentoring need to be recognising the benefits of supporting their men returning to work too.
It’s for that exact reason we started our own Dad Mentoring service last year which has been a huge hit for those who have been through it, and we’re expecting even more of a need in that area over the next couple of years.
  • The current legislation says that after 26 weeks of employment, you are able make a “statutory application” for flexible working. Everyone has a legal right to request, not just parents. But too many organisations have a perception of flexible working as a way of working less when, if anything, the opposite is true. The UK has one of the longest work hours cultures, but one of the least productive too. We need to change the way we work and create new ways of working around innovation – and nowhere is this truer than with parents – both mums and dads.
  • The requirement in law to publish gender pay differentials has been a powerful tool to drive change and awareness of a workplace system that doesn’t serve the cause of retaining and promoting the best female talent. In October 2018 the government announced that it planned to consult on a bill that would require large employers to publish their parental leave package. Transparency in this area would represent the raising of the bar for everyone. I hope 2020 is the year where it becomes a reality.
My main hope is that out of this terrible situation, we start to see a shift in attitude towards the workplace. If nothing else, have so many employees at home being forced to work flexibly will push the debate forward and perhaps convince those employers who have been reluctant to allow flexible working, that it is something that can work for everyone. 2020 may be the start of a real change in the future of work.