HR & Management

Britain’s fathers want improved work-life balance to be with families

4 min read

16 January 2017

Former deputy editor

The UK’s working fathers are prepared to sideline their careers for improved work-life balance and family time, the 2017 Modern Families Index has revealed.

The findings come from Working families, a charity dedicated to work-life balance, and childcare provider Bright Horizons, which found working fathers want to have a more active role alongside mothers when it comes to childcare and parenting.

Seven out of ten fathers work flexibly to manage childcare duties, as a quarter of respondents said they drop children at school or nursery each day, while 26 per cent do so more than half of the time.

But stress is mounting, the study found, and poor work-life balance is behind the strain for half of the dads. This is resulting in a third of fathers feeling burnout on a regular basis, while a fifth work extra hours during evenings and weekends.

The additional working time is due to a workplace belief that “being seen to do long hours is important where they work”, suggesting work-life balance is not a consideration.

Meanwhile, twice as many fathers than mothers feel flexible workers are considered “less committed” and as though the practice “will have a negative impact on their career”.

The feeling of unease and worry is backed up by the result a fifth of employers expect no disruptions to work from childcare. Almost half of dads have felt the need to lie to bosses about work-life balance between the job and family to prevent negative feedback arising.

All of this points to the creation of a “fatherhood penalty”, Bright Horizons has warned.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: “To prevent a ‘fatherhood penalty’ emerging in the UK – and to help tackle the motherhood penalty – employers need to ensure that work is designed in a way that helps women and men find a good work-life fit.

“Making roles flexible by default and a healthy dose of realism when it comes to what can be done in the hours available are absolutely vital.”

“A game-changing first step would be government creating a new, properly paid, extended period of paternity leave – sending clear signal that government recognises the aspirations of modern fathers and is serious about tackling the motherhood penalty that blights the working lives of so many women.”

Indeed, seven out of ten fathers would factor in childcare responsibilities and family needs before accepting another job or promotion.

Furthermore, 47 per cent of dads want to change into a less stressful job to improve work-life balance and family time. Additionally, 38 per cent would reduce their earnings and take a job below what their skills should pay to secure more family time.

Breaking the results down for millennial working fathers, the desire for a less stressful job spiked to 53 per cent and a willingness to take a pay cut rose to 48 per cent.

“It’s clear that the reconciliation of work and family life is now a priority for both mothers and fathers,” said Denise Priest, director of Employer Partnerships at Bright Horizons.

“It is impossible to overstate the positive impact of an understanding and supportive employer – one that adapts to its employees’ needs so that they can progress in their careers. Leading employers are those that protect their employees from parental penalties and provide optimum work and care arrangements.”

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