Workplace culture a key problem for working fathers

20 January 2017

The UK is running the risk of creating a ‘fatherhood penalty’ – as fathers consider stalling or side-lining their careers to find roles they can better combine with family life, according to a major new study.

The 2017 Modern Families Index, published by work-life charity Working Families and Bright Horizons, captures a broad picture – of fathers wanting to take an active part in childcare and of workplaces failing to adapt and support their aspirations.

Family is the highest priority for fathers. A quarter of fathers that took part in the study drop their children at school or nursery every day; with just over a quarter (26%) collecting them more than half the time.

Seven out of ten fathers work flexibly to fulfil their caring responsibilities. However, for half of the fathers spoken to their work-life balance is increasingly a source of stress.  A third of fathers feel burnt out regularly and one in five fathers are doing extra hours in the evening or weekends all the time.

The study identifies workplace culture in the UK as a key problem. Fathers say they work extra hours because this is the only way to deal with their workload and that being seen to do long hours is important where they work.

 

“Tellingly, twice the number of fathers, compared to mothers, believe that flexible workers are viewed as less committed and that working flexibly will have a negative impact on their career.”

 

For many fathers the workplace is unsupportive of their aspirations for a better work-life fit.  For nearly one fifth, their employer is, at best, unsympathetic about childcare, expecting no disruption to work. At worst they say they wouldn’t even tell their employer they had childcare problems – for fear of being viewed negatively. 44% of fathers have lied or bent the truth to their employer, about family related responsibilities that ‘get in the way’ of work.

The study found seven out of ten fathers say that they would consider their childcare needs before taking a new job or a promotion. Fathers are making the same considerations and face the same barriers to their career progression that mothers have faced for decades simply because they have become a parent. The evidence is parents are feeling the pressure:

  • Nearly half of working fathers (47%) want to downshift into a less stressful job because they can’t balance the demands of work and family life;
  • Just over a third of fathers (38%) say that they would be willing to take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance.

The study suggests that this risks creating a ‘fatherhood penalty’ – with more fathers compromising career-wise, following a career that is below their skill set and reducing their earnings.

The study suggests this risk isn’t going away – with these considerations being particularly pronounced for millennial fathers:

  • 53% of millennial fathers want to downshift into a less stressful job because they can’t balance the demands of work and family life
  • 48% of millennial fathers admitted that they would be willing to take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance.

Read the full report - The Modern Families Index 2017.