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DADult Life | December 3, 2022

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The fatherhood penalty: Britain’s dads feel restrained by employers


To find out how today’s fathers are balancing parenthood and careers, work-life charity Working Families and childcare provider Bright Horizons have released the 2017 Modern Families Index.

The findings show that dads across the country are strained by bosses who fail to understand their needs, effectively creating what has been deemed a “fatherhood penalty” as work inhibits fathers from fulfilling their desired childcare and family commitments.

Britain’s workplace culture is the main issue, according to the report, as dads are being set unmanageable workloads that affect their personal time.

To get to the heart of things, I’ve rounded up the key numbers from the study:

Managing childcare duties

A quarter of dads drop their children to school or nursery daily.

26 per cent collect their children more than half of the time.

Seven out of ten fathers have flexible working patterns to meet childcare needs.

How are dads coping?

Half of dads feel stressed by their uneven work-life balance.

A third claim burnout is a common occurrence.

A fifth constantly work extra hours in the evenings and on weekends.

What are the employers doing?

One fifth of fathers say bosses have no compassion for childcare and expect it to be business as usual.

At 44 per cent, almost half of dads have lied about family duties that conflict with work.

Dads are twice more likely to feel working flexibly will damage careers and make them look less committed than mums.

The fatherhood penalty means…

Seven in ten dads would put childcare needs ahead of any new job or promotion.

A less stressful job is desired by 47 per cent of working dads across the country because they can’t balance work and family in their current set-up.

38 per cent of dads would take a pay cut for work-life balance.

For millennial working dads – those born between 1980 and 2000 – the aforementioned numbers spike significantly, with 53 per cent wanting less stress and 48 per cent willing to reduce pay for work-life balance enhancements.

What needs to be done?

“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,” said Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families.

“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.”

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

“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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