More than just the babysitter

Post author image. Katy Neep
For Father’s Day, Business in the Community’s (BITC) Gender Director Katy Neep discusses how employers need to create a culture which empowers men to care.

Over the nearly four years of my daughter’s life, I have heard the phrase “isn’t he great babysitting for you?” more than once in reference to my partner looking after our daughter. He is her father, he wants to co-parent and yet in this one statement, his role is made out to be no more than help when I, Mum, is not available.

In March this year, Business in the Community (BITC) launched Who Cares? a report which calls on employers to rethink the way that paid work and caring responsibilities are combined. In our research, we found that more men (22%) than women (15%) did not feel supported by their employer to manage their caring responsibilities. Over half the men asked (57%) think men are less likely to be supported at work with their childcare responsibilities.

Among those who agreed that men are less likely to be supported with childcare, priorities for improvements included flexible working being promoted to men and women (70%), challenging the stigma around male care givers (46%), and offering longer paid time off for new fathers (36%).

Green shoots of progress are beginning to show, as our recent insights report on The Times Top 50 Employers for Women highlights, employers are making some progress when it comes to family-friendly policies. Focus group discussions at construction, development and property services company Wates Group led to a review of family leave to assess improvement. An enhanced paternity/partner leave was announced in March 2020 which led to 71% of new dads at Wates Group taking the full eight weeks in 2020, with 95% taking more than statutory leave.

At this year’s inaugural Working Dad’s Employers Awards organisations that recognise and promote the role of fathers in driving gender equality in the workplace were celebrated. BITC were proud partners of the awards which recognised employers for what they are doing to support men. This included through parental leave, flexible working, returning to work and within their organisation’s leadership and culture. Among the winners were John Lewis and Aviva who are among the first employers to offer equal parental leave, meaning Dads are able to take paid and supported time to be with their children.

Embedding these processes and policies is not just about enabling more men to care, it is also about delivering gender equality. Alarmingly for the first time in at least 30 years, there has been a sustained increase in the number of women not working to look after family – rising 5% in the past year1.

If employers are serious about gender equality and ensuring that women do not have to choose between work and care then we need to ensure that pay and benefits are truly equal for all. So this Father’s Day BITC calls on all employers to consider caring the norm and not the exception. Create a culture that empowers men to care and provide the policies and processes that mean they can do this in the way they need, when they need.

Let’s call time on the ‘babysitter’ culture.

Read BITC’s Who Cares? report to find out how your organisation can transform how you combine paid work and caring responsibilities.

Book your place on the Transforming Your Approach To Carers: Policies event on June 24, which will explore how organisations can enable men to take on more in the way of unpaid caring responsibilities.

build a gender equal workplace

References

  1. Tom Calver (2022) Held back: the mothers who can’t afford to return to work, The Times, 5 June.