Support dads in the workplace to prevent the ‘fatherhood penalty’

‘69 per cent of fathers said they would consider their childcare arrangements before they took a new job or promotion.  Fathers are the more likely (47 per cent) to want to downshift into a less stressful job and 38 per cent would be willing to take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance, reflecting the difficulty they face in reconciling work and home life.’
Modern Families Index 2017

The Modern Families Index reinforces the fact that more than ever before, working dads absolutely need recognition and support. Historically, most working dads have not had to make the same life-changing decisions that a woman suspending a career to take maternity leave has to.  However, they are now facing one of the biggest changes and increases in responsibility they will ever experience – with modern expectations that they will play a bigger part in their role as a father.

Traditionally, we have only seen workplace support for women during and following maternity. But if we only offer help and guidance to women to become the ‘parent and the professional,’ then doesn’t that assume we are expecting women only to do both jobs of working and caring for the family, and therefore excluding fathers from this dual role? This is not a good message if we are aiming to create more diverse, family-friendly workplaces, where we have a healthy mix of men and women, working and parenting.

Some organisations (those who are actively and openly striving to become more family-friendly to attract talented and diverse staff) have realised that the best way to support women through the talent pipeline – is to support their dads at work too.

Do you want to challenge the gender pay gap?  Match your maternity and paternity pay and benefits to enable dads to breakdown the financial barrier of taking extended parental leave.  Ensure your working fathers and mothers are offered and encouraged to work flexibly – over time, the gender pay gap will reduce.

If you already offer maternity coaching, rebrand it to ‘parental-transition coaching’ and invite ALL parents to career coaching workshops. Or, put on events for dads only.  Small groups of fathers and fathers-to-be can meet to discuss issues such as:

–– Their life is changing as they enter fatherhood; not just their partner’s life.
Being a father can and will impact their working lives, so changes do need to be made.

–– Society has changed. More mothers have to work now to help keep the family financially afloat, so dads need to help out with the parenting.  We are also waking up to the fact dads WANT to spend time with their families and children and get a healthier work/life balance.

–– What they can do to help and support the family – whether it be planning the family finances, ensuring parental entitlements are understood and maximised or doing the nursery or school run.

–– They are now legally entitled to Shared Parental Leave (SPL).  The mother has to take the first two weeks of maternity leave, after that working couples can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay – do they know about the benefits of this?

–– It’s okay to talk about your family openly at work and take time out to be more involved at home. In fact, the more open fathers are, the easier it is for mothers to be more open about how they are managing their work/family balance.

What are the benefits for working mums?

–– They are no longer expected to manage 100 per cent of the childcare.

–– They get recognition and help from both their companies and their partners.

–– Losing the burden of some of the childcare responsibilities releases time and energy for work and outside interests.

HR may need to be proactive in including dads in all the support they offer to their mums – it is very common for dads not to come forward and ask for help in their role as a working dad – HR Review commented on 7 March 2016:

‘It’s interesting to note that in the dads surveyed, a large proportion seemed too scared to ask for help from their managers.’

Supporting dads makes good business sense – and it helps prevent what is undoubtedly coming next:  ‘the fatherhood penalty.’  Organisations are constantly striving for ways to retain their talent: time and flexibility is the new currency.

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