Equality in the workplace – how businesses can support dads for a more balanced approach to childcare.
With Father’s Day fast approaching, this Sunday 20th June (*gentle reminder*), PSHR’s Hannah Tricker reflects on the changing role of fathers in the world of modern parenting.
These days more and more men need and more importantly, want, to play active roles in supporting their families with childcare. Looking around my own family and friends, including my husband, it’s clear that modern day men want to share the responsibilities of child-rearing with their partners and move away from the more traditional role of being the ‘breadwinner’ or the ‘weekend parent’. Equality is what we are all striving for and progress is being made but there is a long way to go.
The Government introduced Shared Parental leave (SPL) in 2015 ‘to offer choice to eligible parents when it comes to childcare and allow mothers to return to work sooner if they wish to’.
According to GOV.UK, the policy aimed at benefiting employers who can retain talent in their workforce and contribute to closing their gender pay gap. However, the legislation was extremely complicated and uptake rates reported by People Management Magazine have been exceptionally low.
To date, in my career, I have not yet seen a request for SPL, which is disappointing. I believe this is not because fathers don’t want to take an active role, but because there is a lack of support in the workplace to do so. By making people aware of their rights and promoting their own policies and benefits, businesses can help to normalise and encourage their staff to take advantage of parental leave and support a more balanced approach to childcare. It’s important too to offer policies that are realistic and workable. It wasn’t difficult to search the internet and find some really shocking statistics:
- A survey by Business in the Community in 2018 found that 66% of men would be encouraged to use more family-friendly policies if they were confident it wouldn’t impact their career, while twice the amount of men than women with caring responsibilities, believe their organisation expects men to prioritise work above family commitments.
- A 2017 report by The Fatherhood Institute revealed that employed fathers are almost twice as likely as mothers to have requests for flexible working turned down while employers are more likely to ‘top up’ maternity pay than paternity or shared parental pay, suggesting they are more supportive of women taking leave.
It is understandable that smaller organisations will have fewer resources to support fathers in the workplace, but it’s important that employers do what they can to create a culture that supports working dads as well as mums to ensure all parents successfully manage the balance between work and family.
So what can employers do to eliminate ‘daddy discrimination’
With People Management reporting that half of all men would prefer childcare to be shared equally, here are some ways PSHR recommends to help dads achieve the family-work balance:
Education- Instead of just educating mothers to be about their maternity rights, make sure Dad’s to be are also informed of their rights. Refer them to your Paternity Leave Policy and options available to them in order to be at home in the crucial weeks and months following childbirth.
Communication – Managers and HR should get to know their male workforce. Talk to them, understand their childcare responsibilities and challenges, and proactively seek to find new arrangements and solutions that they may have been too afraid to speak out about before.
Flexible Working & Family Friendly Policies – Have the policies and management support in place to promote a culture of equality. Genuinely offer and seek to seriously consider any flexible working requests from men.
Return to work – support dads to comfortably reintegrate back to work after a period of leave reducing the disruption faced by both those who opt to take SPL and their employers.
Break the norm – Some businesses may be able to offer Paternity leave on full pay or provide additional paid leave to allow them to bond with their baby and support the mother if she needs it. This will encourage men to take the time off they need and not use all their annual leave entitlement in one go. You don’t want to face burn out later in the year as a result!
Improving communication around these issues and offering a more flexible approach to shared parenting responsibilities also gives businesses a competitive advantage. If you would like help to review Family Friendly and flexible working policies that are right for your business, speak to one of our professional HR consultants for advice.
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