Dads – not just for Father’s Day

Post author image. Charlotte Woodworth
The ultimate gift for Father’s day would be a working culture that support men to be dads at home, not just earners at work.

This year’s Father’s Day falls after a period when COVID-19 means many dads have spent more time with their children than ever before1 and the signs are they want to maintain this. At the same time, working mums have faced unprecedented work-life pressures2 and data suggests some are thinking about stepping back from their jobs as a result.3

Charlotte Woodworth, Gender Equality Campaign Director at Business in the Community (BITC), argues that one of the most effective ways employers can respond to these twin trends is to upgrade the support they offer working fathers and that doing so makes good business sense.

Fathers want greater time with their families, now more than ever

While the data shows it is mums more than dads who ‘plugged the gap’ when lockdowns saw schools and childcare settings closed4, many dads have been more involved at home than ever before. A survey of 1,300 UK families in the first few months of lockdown found men had increased the amount of time they gave to childcare by an average of 58%5. In Australia, men were doing an average of two extra hours daily6. In Canada, 60% of dads surveyed said they had been providing companionship to their children more often7. The impact has been sizeable – dads are reporting greater confidence in their parenting skills and a greater understanding of the importance of their role. In one survey, just under half said ‘lockdown has had a positive impact on their roles as fathers8.

‘Pre-pandemic, many working dads told BITC they wanted to be more involved at home but were hesitant about the impact on their careers. With the support of Santander, we took a long hard look at the workplace barriers for Dads and found they were often worried about their employers’ attitude and colleagues’ perceptions if, for example, they worked from home regularly. Experiences during the pandemic have intensified this desire for a better work-life balance.10.

Ensuring your organisation supports men to be dads at home, not just earners at work, is increasingly vital to attracting and retaining the best talent

Ensuring your organisation supports fathers to be dads at home, not just earners at work is therefore increasingly vital to attracting and retaining the best talent 11. Key to this is ensuring any newly flexible or agile working culture is truly available to all. This means actively addressing the stigma that can stop dads from accessing more family-friendly working patterns.

Working mums have been stretched to breaking point

While many dads have done more caring than ever before in two-parent and two-gender families, mums have been the primary ‘shock absorbers’ during COVID-19; from furlough to homeschooling, they have been on the front line, and it’s taking a toll. They are experiencing a rise in mental health issues, with some reporting plans to step back, step down, or even ‘opt out’ after an exhausting year12.

This unequal spread reflects patterns set up pre-pandemic; women have always done the lion’s share of raising children. A range of things drive this, but research has found dynamics established when children are very young can have a lasting impact. If dads don’t do much at the nappy stage, they are less likely to be active and involved down the line13.

Supporting dads to do more in the early years will help mums progress at work

So, supporting dads to do more in the early years will help mums progress at work. However, BITC estimates fewer than 15 UK companies offer equal or harmonised parental leave policies when babies first arrive, with the overwhelming majority focusing their support for working parents on working mums with dads an afterthought at best. This lopsided approach limits dads’ ability to be present parents and acts as a break on many women’s working lives. Moreover, it sends a clear signal about a businesses’ attitudes towards working parents, women should do the caring, men the earning, which in turn solidifies wider stereotypes and prejudice.

Imagine the difference if more employers were to say ‘we will support dads too’? This could include making it financially viable for fathers to take a bit of time with their baby at the beginning14. Not only would this better support individual families with their choices when a new baby arrives, it also sends a powerful signal about an organisation’s values. Indeed, companies that have adopted ‘equal’ parental leave packages, such as insurance firm Aviva and management consultants Bain & Co, point to overwhelmingly enthusiastic responses from their wider workforce when they unveiled their approach. When retail group John Lewis announced their new harmonised offer last week, six months paid leave for new parents of all genders, they trended on Twitter with many dads applauding the move.

This Father’s Day is a good moment for employers to recognise the changed attitudes of working dads, and the recent experiences of working mums. Addressing these trends, and keeping pace with employee expectations, means ensuring a working culture where dads, as well as mums, are valued and supported.

Read BITC’s Route Map To A More Gender Equal Future for more information on how employers can support working parents, and a case study exploring Aviva’s approach.

If you are a BITC member and would like to work for greater gender equality at your organisation, speak to your relationship manager. Contact us if you do not know who your relationship manager is.

If you are not a BITC member but would like help making a difference to families at home and work, contact our Advisory Services Team.

we can help you create gender
equal workplaces

References

  1. Office for National Statistics (2020) Coronavirus and how people spent their time under lockdown, 27 May 2020.
  2. Hannah Slaughter (2021) Labour Market Outlook Q2 2021, Resolution Foundation, 14 June 2021.
  3. McKinsey & Co (2020) How are working women doing during COVID-19? Our Women in the Workplace study explores, September 30, 2020
  4. Hannah Slaughter (2021) Labour Market Outlook Q2 2021, Resolution Foundation, 14 June 2021
  5. Office for National Statistics (2020) Coronavirus and how people spent their time under lockdown, 27 May 2020.
  6. Rae Cooper, and Sarah Mosseri (2020), Pandemic has impacted on women most significantly. The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 June.
  7. Adam Bisby (2020) New men’s health studies reveal COVID silver lining: Stronger father-child connections, Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, 16 June. 
  8. Adam Bisby (2020) New men’s health studies reveal COVID silver lining: Stronger father-child connections, Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, 16 June. 
  9. Business in the Community (2019) Equal Lives: parenthood and caring in the workplace.
  10. Fatherhood Institute (2021) Contemporary Fathers in the UK: our review of research on British dads, 4 May.
  11. Business in the Community (2019) Equal Lives: parenthood and caring in the workplace.
  12. McKinsey & Co (2020) How are working women doing during COVID-19? Our Women in the Workplace study explores, September 30, 2020
  13. Maria C. Huerta, Willem Adema, Jennifer Baxter, Wen-Jui Han, Mette Lausten, RaeHyuck Lee, and Jane Waldfogel (2017) Fathers’ Leave and Fathers’ Involvement: Evidence from Four OECD Countries, European Journal of Social Security, Dec; 16(4): 308–346.
  14. Alison Andrew, Oriana Bandiera, Monica Costa Dias and Camille Landais (2021) The careers and time use of mothers and fathers, Institute for Fiscal Studies.