Why is it important to support working fathers?

Changes in attitudes identified in the British Social Attitudes Survey demonstrate that Fathers in the UK increasingly wish to combine work with time spent fulfilling childcare responsibilities. Various policies exist in the UK which give fathers the opportunity to spend more time taking care of their children, including parental leave policies and flexible working policies.

By communicating and encouraging the usage of these policies to working parents, organisations can better support fathers in the workplace, leading to a significant number of benefits for families, children, workers and the organisation, as outlined below.

Benefits for business

Employers consistently report that having family-friendly options within an organisation helps to improve workers’ motivation, productivity, employer-employee relations and staff retention. In addition, employers have noted a range of business benefits associated with family-friendly employment practices and policies including: above average financial performance, improvements in quality performance and rising sales values.

Increasingly employees and potential employees, particularly Millennials, are demanding that their employers provide family-friendly policies, and taking this into account when they apply for jobs or consider moving on from an organisation. In research by Working Families, the majority of younger fathers (68%) say they would consider their childcare needs before taking a new job or promotion. The majority of working fathers (53%) with children under 1 think they spend too little time with their children, whereas, only 34% of all fathers who work flexibly believe they spend too little time with their children (Equality and Human Rights Commission Survey).

Better for equality

As well as benefiting the business, supporting fathers in the workplace can also help reduce unconscious discrimination against women in the workplace and become a tool to help reduce the gender pay gap. These policies can also help reduce the gender pay gap, as they allow fathers to care for children if mothers wish to return to work.

Better for fathers

Being supported to spend more time caring for their children is beneficial for fathers as it promotes better bonding between father and child.  It can also promote better intra-couple relationship over time and alleviate mental stress associated with being separated from their children particularly in the early years. An EHRC (2009) survey of 4500 parents found that 56% of British fathers who took paternity leave felt this was directly responsible for their greater involvement in the care of their children in the longer term; and 69% said it improved the quality of family life. The same study also found that the majority of working fathers (53%) with children under the age of 1 think that they spend too little time with their children. Conversely, only 34% of fathers who work flexibly believed they spend too little time with their children (EHRC, 2009).

Better for children and families

Family-friendly policies can significantly benefit children.  International research shows that fathers’ leave-taking, especially of more than two weeks, is associated with more involvement in childcare longer term which is linked to better outcomes for children. Evidence also suggests that paid leave for fathers, which promotes a more equitable sharing of parenting responsibilities, can support breastfeeding by giving mothers more time to breastfeed.  Research within the UK shows that children with highly-involved fathers had higher cognitive test scores and were less likely to experience conduct or attention problems.