With Father’s Day just round the corner, Talking Talent’s CEO, Chris Parke raises the importance of companies doing more to support working dads, especially given last month’s Queen’s speech which failed to outline any concrete plans for flexible working for fathers in the ‘Children and Families Bill’.

A year ago the Government introduced Additional Paternity Leave, giving fathers a right to up to six months extra leave to be taken once the mother has returned to work, and it had been anticipated the Queen’s Speech would have included more progressive legislation in support of working fathers.

Chris Parke points out that despite these positive steps – additional paternity leave has not been a success with very few fathers taking it up and the Queen’s Speech failed to address the needs of working fathers and how companies can offer flexible working for both mothers and fathers.

A new report – ‘Working Fathers – Combining Family Life & Work’- by Lancaster University and Working Families looks at the gap between men and women’s work-life balance. The report indicates that the expectations of fathers and how involved they should be in directly bring up their children is changing.

The research found that 82% of full time working men would like to spend more time with their children and help with child care. The report also found fathers are being given more opportunities to work more flexibly than they did five years ago and many organisations are acknowledging the idea of men working flexibility for work-life balance reasons.

Chris Parke says: “The Queen’s speech in May did announce that new parents will be able to request more flexible working hours to engage a more active role in their children’s upbringing and this new report indicates this is what father’s would like, however it is still not clear from government how this could be implemented.

“Many UK companies are not embracing the idea of flexible working for fathers and we believe more should be being done to encourage companies to think about how they could support working fathers. Likewise the uptake of paternity leave is low and probably not enough is being done by companies to promote this.

“Many men are reluctant to take additional paternity leave because it is still a new concept and they are worried about any negative impact it may have on their careers, how they will be perceived by their boss and colleagues, and the financial implications.
“When it comes to flexible working many fathers are afraid to ask for fear it may be deemed they don’t take their job seriously and many companies are not forward thinking enough to think through how they could be more supportive of fathers, many still believing child care is the main responsibility of the mother.”

The Working Fathers report ‘showed that fathers who have more flexible working options tend to be less troubled by stress, and have an improved sense of purpose and wellbeing’. It also found that ‘fathers who work flexibly have a better work-life balance and are able to deal with work overload more effectively than those with no flexibility’.

Chris Parke adds: “We believe more companies could be giving fathers more options for flexible working, which will benefit families, the wellbeing of the employee and of course the company in the long run. Government also needs to bring in more progressive legislation in this area. The family unit is changing and with many families with two working parents there is a need to address the gap between male and female work-life balance.

“There is a shift in attitude around men taking a more active role in family life and there are signs that men do want a level playing field when it comes to work-life balance. Businesses need to embrace this change and government needs to play its part too in creating a legal framework for how businesses can manage this.

Last year Talking Talent introduced a ‘New Dad’s Coaching Programme’ designed to work in a similar way to their maternity coaching courses and to prepare fathers for juggling work and home life with the arrival of a new baby.

Chris Parke adds: “There are some forward thinking companies who are promoting extended paternity leave and rolling out innovative coaching programmes to support men and women taking leave. This kind of approach will help to support a shift in mindset long-term.

“It would be wonderful to have a few precedents laid out, but I fear we are a long way from achieving a real status quo. The enviable standards reached by our Scandinavian neighbours seem little but a pipe dream at this stage. It boils down to changing the all-important cultural and financial issues.”