Fathers and the workplace

Interesting article on the BBC today.

"Workplace policies have not kept up with the social changes in people's everyday lives," according to Maria Miller, Chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee.

Couldn't agree more... could you?

  • Oh this pulls me in so many directions!

    Generally, yes, I agree. The strident feminist in me says that.

    However.....I am also a birth worker and I need to find a balance in my head for the biological setting for a mother/baby to be together with the knowledge that it's only when men challenge the norm and take up more leave for example, that women will start being treated less favourably for taking time out of the work environment.
  • Just yesterday, I had a query from one of our experienced line managers asking me to confirm that annual leave should be taken instead of unpaid leave for a father that wanted to attend a 12 week scan with his partner. I soon put him on the right track and he was thankful as he'd never come across this before.

    I think it takes education and parents also need to know their own rights as well - this company is fairly behind when it comes to family friendly laws but it's a work in progress and we'll get there (I hope).
  • I was just about to post this article! I don't think policies are keeping up but they always take time and may come from a need. The need may be enough demand or a culture shift in workplaces. Which comes first, policy change or culture shift?
  • In reply to Victoria Dmochowski:

    Victoria Dmochowski said:

    "Which comes first, policy change or culture shift?"

    I think a lot of people think of 'culture' and 'strategy' as being *fixed*. But they are not - or shouldn't be. From my bookmarks...

    HR Can't Change Company Culture by Itself - HBR

  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    ...and policy / legislative change often lags behind shifting societal values.
  • In reply to Meg:

    mmm, have to say I find it a bit annoying, but not at all surprising, that the suggestion of all new jobs to be advertised flexibly is in response to a report about how hard men are finding it to get flexible work.

    Mothers have been struggling with this for years, and years, and years. Often having to give up looking for work altogether.

    But, obviously the HR and non-feminist part of is saying "oh yes, great idea, this will definitely sort it"
  • In reply to Meg:

    @Meg - did you mean less or more in your last sentence?
  • Quite surprised (disappointed?) that this thread hasn't generated more discussion.

  • In reply to Elizabeth:

    Sorry I meant 'stop being treated less favourably'
  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    I had a brief conversation on twitter about paternity leave yesterday. It was less to do with shared parental leave, or fathers who are the main caregivers, but symptomatic of the whole thing, in my opinion.
    My husband recently told his manager that he was going to become a dad and apart from a 'well done, isn't it nice to know that everything works' he received very little information. I ended up providing links to the gov.uk info on statutory paternity, etc for him and a couple of his colleagues who are in a similar situation.
    It's not a particularly small organisation, but it's a male dominated one. I couldn't help but think that if an organisation had the same demographic, but female, there would be an impetus to have strong maternity policies and provision in place. But perhaps it's a reflection on his organisation rather than wider practices.

    Inspired by a different conversation on here, I've just updated our paternity and maternity letters to highlight the provision of shared parental leave. We already had policies for this, but it might not have been obvious if you didn't know about it.
  • I'm a new father of a 3 month old and am in the fortunate position of being able to work flexibly. Full time hours over 4 days a week, which is brilliant. 2 weeks fully paid paternity leave, I appreciate that I am fortunate to work somewhere that has supported me in this way, and in an HR Dept that recognises the benefits of doing so.

    My main point is surrounding the uptake of shared parental leave and the lack of uptake. I was involved in updating our policies prior to the legislation going live, which was challenging in itself, as we had a member of staff that was intending to make use of this immediately. He satisfied all of the criteria and as the mother of his child was self-employed it made a huge amount of sense. It was good to see that this working, and supporting his new family. Since then, we have had 2 further requests, which is less than I was anticipating.

    Let me qualify what I am about to say by making it very clear that I fully appreciate he fortunate situation that I am in.

    My family is one that should theoretically benefit from the shared parental leave provision. My wife works for a large multinational company and earns a fair whack more than I do. Her company has offered her 6 months full pay as part of her maternity package, which is very generous. Therefore, when looking at this logically, my wife should return after 6 months and I should take the following 6 months off (which we have budgeted for). That all seems quite straight forward, except it isn't!

    When I suggested this to my wife as the most cost effective way of managing the first year of our sons life, she couldn't have been less interested. Initially I think that she thought I was joking, then when I presented the rational thought behind the situation, her response was something like "I've carried this around with my for 9 months and will be actually giving birth to our child, so I will be having my year off thank you very much". I was fully expecting this and am delighted that we are able to make this choice, but recognise a few points.

    1. Employee's don't always understand how shared parental leave works. I now meet with every expectant mother and father that works with us to fully explain it. One that I met with last week knew about shared parental leave but hadn't appreciated that whilst his partner is using accrued annual leave following the end of her leave, he could be off using shared parental leave. Knowledge is power! (this goes for organisations as well - how may do we think are actively promoting this to their staff?)

    2. The vast majority of partners that I have spoken to regarding this opportunity have been given a response similar to the one I received.

    3.It is very difficult to argue that someone should return to work earlier than they are entitled to, whilst they are pregnant! (I joke). In all seriousness, his isn't a business decision, not one that can be determined by profit/loss balance sheets. This choice is intensely emotional and should be recognised as such.
  • In reply to Donald Harvey:

    Donald - all I will say is that you (and your wife) shouldn't forget that you can always elect to take shared parental leave later in the first year of maternity leave, as long as you provide at least 8 weeks' notice (IIRC).

    I say that only because some working mothers, faced with the burden of 24-hour care for a growing baby, can rapidly discover that the "year off" is harder - physically and mentally - than going back to work!

    Speaking to the topic as a whole, though:

    a. "Workplace policies have not kept up with the social changes in people's everyday lives,"

    b. "At interviews, he was too often asked: "But what is your wife doing? Why isn't your wife picking up the children?"... They found it amazing that a man actually wanted to raise his children."

    This is the dichotomy in the workplace and for HR professionals. The fact is that social change is occurring at different rates in different regions, professions, generations and classes. I recently raised the option of Shared Parental Leave with a soon-to-be father and he looked at me as if I'd grown a second head. As far as he (mid-40s white collar professional) was concerned, looking after his children was his wife's job and any man who took time off to change nappies was (a) not a proper man and (b) asking to be fired.

    As the experience of the interviewee in the article shows, this is still not an isolated view. The law, in this case, is moving faster than society, but employers' behaviours and attitudes tend to move slower (as we saw in the notorious high heels case at PwC). The reason workplace policies don't keep up is because the pressure on employers to change doesn't really come from government but from their employees - and until employers believe that their policies (really, their attitudes and procedures) present a risk to their ability to recruit, retain and motivate their employees, nothing will happen.
  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    In answer to your surprise and disappointment Steve, I don't think you need to feel either. As some of our women colleagues have been courageous enough to admit, the whole basis of Flexible Working (FW) and shared Parental Leave can seem something of a two-edged sword, and on that basis one where many readers and very-interested parties (of both sexes) will be disinclined to comment, for fear of being misunderstood or causing offence.

    Until the change in the Regulations in 2014 (and the unusual explanatory memorandum that appears with them; very worth reading) FW in almost any context was a "women only" prerogative, and one which had been hard-fought-for over many years. Now the (enlightened) changes in legislative approach, sharing not only the right to apply for FW on more than child-care grounds, but to share in parental leave, might (entirely reasonably) be felt to offer men "gratis" the benefits of what women have had to fight, and often sacrifice for, over many years.

    Therefore promoting the change to universal flexibility might seem at the least discourteous for many men and possibly verging on treason for a woman!

    (I also use the term "enlightened" above with some advisement, insofar as I wonder how quickly our legislators would have promoted it so ardently if it had not been for the realisation that in a 24/7 international working environment FW extending and replacing 5 x 8 working makes very good "bottom-line" business sense).

    But as a parent, and a grandparent, I welcome the changes FW signifies, and might itself promote in equality; not only for the opportunity given to fathers to share the responsibilities, joy, bonding .....and shear hard graft... of the early weeks of a child's life, but in the further progress toward the wider, overall, recognition of both equality, and difference when it does have value, in our society as a whole.


  • Sort of related to this topic, I quizzed my husband over uptake of any type of leave as his company has a plethora of babies being born at the moment.
    In theory he should have been a leading light in taking leave when a baby was born as with each of our 3 he had around 6 weeks off, made up of paternity leave, annual leave and some kind of flexible working arrangements. Senior manager walking the walk, making sure all employees know what leave exists (joys of being married to an HR person!), very flexible and very well paid company - like I said, in *theory* there should be no barriers to people taking leave.
    In practice he's lucky if dads or partners take 2 weeks normal paternity leave. Definitely no additional time at the time of birth (except for one, whose baby was born with difficulties), and no shared paternity leave at all. He has no explanation other than they just don't want to. I can't understand it but knowing that they have all the information and avenues available to them I can only take from it that there just isn't the desire there.
    (Caveat that I'm not talking specifically about ShPL as women's earnings will have an impact on that and I have no idea what they are)
  • In reply to Meg:

    Again, Meg, I'm not sure we need be that surprised. Changing legislation is one thing, changing attitudes is quite another. It is quite possible (if not almost certain) that the apparent lack of desire of male colleagues to participate in the early weeks of childhood is no more than the long-standing failure of society as a whole to assimilate men into that chaotic, emotional, life-changing, rewarding, frustrating, wonderful, and sometimes downright terrifying, time!

    When a creature raised in captivity is released into the wild it often refuses to move from its cage, not from any desire to stay penned, but because it is bewildered and confused by to open field or sky before it.....

    I remember well the lonely feeling of being the only man who turned up for anti-natal classes with his wife (a radical new option 39 years ago) and the thinly veiled hostility of some of the other women present (until it was mentioned that I was at the time also an Ambulanceman). Today the exception is more likely to be the partner who refuses.

    Give male workers (and their employers) a while to get used to the idea of FW (four years so far) and ShPL being the norm' and we will catch up. :-)

    There are also still (female) HR managers around who, in spite of FW being agreed by a company's operational managers, will block FW applications on the grounds that "the mother" should be taking time off to arrange child-care and a man being granted the right will "open the floodgates" of other applications.

    So the whole issue of incorporation of both male-parental and wider FW rights remains a "work in progress" with a long way to go and a lot of learning to do!