15 Jun 2012
What about working Dads?
In years gone by, ‘Dad’ was that guy who came in the door some time in the evening and greeted his children excitedly. For the last few hours before bed children saw their father and heard about his day at work. It was mum who stayed at home and brought the children up and Dad who went out to work everyday. These traditional roles have long since evaporated, reversed, changed and been created anew but have the working conditions followed suit? Are we stuck in our 1950s mindset?
With more and more men choosing to work from home, take time off or schedule their work around their family life, are they being sufficiently supported? Does the law allow for fathers who would like more flexible working conditions?
By law, fathers are entitled to:
- Paternity leave – new dads can take two weeks leave paid at a standard rate if they notify their employer 15 weeks before the due date.
- Parental leave – dads also have the right to take up to 13 weeks unpaid leave until their child is five years old.
So much emphasis has been placed on mum in the last 50 years, from childcare support to having a career and bringing up their children but have we forgotten about dad? Just because we’re accustomed to fighting for women’s rights does that mean we can sidestep men’s rights?
My mother worked part-time until I was 18. Throughout primary school and most of secondary school, she was there to pick me up at the end of the day without fail…well, mostly. No one ever thought of my father working part-time and picking me up instead. It was a completely personal choice but I’m not sure traditional values or expectations have really changed.
Perhaps things have changed since I was young, but men at the school gate at 3pm still seem to be a minority. I wonder if this is really a choice, or if there is a degree of social stigma attached to a father who chooses to work fewer hours and take on more childcare duties. No doubt a playground full of mums waiting for their kids after school could be considered a slightly daunting place for the scattering of men waiting there too, but maybe things are changing. Is it becoming not only a more common thing, but a more accepted and indeed expected role for fathers?
Fiona McAllister, writing for the Fatherhood Institute raises the issue that ‘we still don’t know very much about how employed fathers make work-life choices’, and notes that the best way to address potential gender-based iniquities is to ‘sort out flexible working and parental leave so that it is equally available (and comparably paid) for working parents of both sexes.’ Her article concludes that things are looking positive, and that ‘the evidence indicates that there are growing instances of the working dad, for whom fatherhood is as important as career; and of the stay-at-home dad.’
An article on workingmums.net also reveals some interesting observations:
“an on-going study into the impact of employment practices on fathers has revealed dads gain massively in terms of their family life when they’re allowed to work flexibly. The research, carried out by Lancaster University Management School, Working Families and financed by the Lottery Research Fund, has discovered that fathers are more committed employees and more engaged parents with flexible working.”
“the survey and the interviews carried out by researchers showed the success or failure of fathers requesting flexible working depended mostly on the attitudes of line managers – regardless of what is theoretically available.”
What do working dads think? Or working mums? Is there enough support out there? Are we programmed to find a man assuming childcare responsibility a surprise? Will there be more and more dads at the school gate in the future?