It was once mostly mothers who faced the issues of trying to combine working with being a parent; however, a new survey has revealed that men are now at risk of what experts call the ‘fatherhood penalty’.
A recent 2017 Modern Families Index reveals that although men are generally still paid more than their female counterparts, a growing proportion think that chasing their career inevitable means missing out on quality family life.
Fathers’ involvement in the lives of children has grown rapidly over recent decades, rising from under 15 minutes’ childcare a day in the mid-1970s to around three hours on a weekday by the end of the 1990s. While the average working week dropped from 47 hours to 45 hours between 2001 and 2011, men in the UK still work some of Europe’s longest hours,
There has been a substantial fall in the number of fathers working very long hours, with 40% working for 48 hours or more in 2001 compared with 31% in 2013; however, half of the dads involved in the Modern Families study of 2,750 people admitted that balancing family life and work commitments was an increasing source of stress. One-third claimed that they regularly feel burned out and 20% said they were working weekends and evenings to enable them to spend time with their offspring during the day.
The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry to discover how employers can support fathers. The committee’s chairperson, Maria Miller, said that more than 50% of millennial fathers would like to move to a job with less stress due to the difficulties of balancing family life and work.
The survey found that just under half of the people who took part were in families in which both parents were in full-time employment; this increased to 52% for millennial couples. Miller claims that there must be a change in institutionalised working patterns to accommodate the needs of modern families and ensure that family life does not have to suffer because of working practices originally developed during the start of last century.
Miller hopes that the committee’s inquiry will pressure the government into ensuring that all jobs are advertised with flexible working as an option. Miller said that accepting this is a sign of a good employer that recognises the potential of offering unique opportunities that result in a very loyal workforce.
So far, the government’s solution has been to extend the provision of free nursery places, with the 15 hours currently on offer set to go up to 30 hours in September; however, Miller believes that more of a cultural revolution is required. She cites the low uptake of parental leave as an example – despite being introduced almost two years ago to allow fathers to share what was once solely maternity leave, under 5% of people eligible have taken up the offer. Miller claims this is because fathers feel that their employers could question their commitment and that this could have a negative effect on their careers.
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