Paternity leave press releases ping into my inbox with increasingly regularity. The senders differ, but the content is the same. X, Y or Z company is improving its offering for dads by extending paternity leave to 12 weeks, three months or, hold the dirty nappy, the same package it offers to mums.
I get why this is a big deal. And I understand that these employers deserve to be lauded and applauded for these forward-thinking policy changes. But I always find myself reading these announcements and pondering the same question over and over again. What happens next? When these paternity leave periods are over, do the dads come back to a world of flexible working, peer support and parental responsibility recognition, or is it more a case of: “Hope you had a fun holiday, now let’s get back to business?”
Involved, but invisible
In a world where 87% of millennial dads are involved in the day-to-day parenting, 58% are fully involved in dad-to-day parenting and 10% of fathers suffer from PND, you would hope and expect the answer to be the former. Sadly…
“I honestly didn’t know half of these guys were dads,” admitted the HR officer of a large media agency, where I was presenting a Working Dads workshop. Unsurprisingly, many of the dads in attendance went on to reveal that they really appreciated the workshop because they felt like it was the first time their employer had done anything to acknowledge the fact that their pressures and responsibilities had changed since becoming a father.
This really isn’t good. But, sadly, it’s also not that bad. A lot of companies haven’t even got to the stage of putting on workshops for dads.
“Our research has shown that UK fathers experience a very high level of work-family conflict,” reveals Professor Margaret O’Brien, Professor in Child and Family Policy at University College London and Director of the Thomas Coram Research Unit.
Daddilife’s The Millennial Dad at Work report backs this assertion up. It discovered that 37% of the dads surveyed believed their mental health had been negatively affected as a result of them trying to balance their work and parental responsibilities, 45% of dads have experienced tension from their employers in trying to balance work with their new parenting role, and 62% of dads feel that more training is needed for line managers around supporting dads in the workplace.
The business view
Still, you can see the employers’ perspective, right? I mean, who cares if a few male employees are a bit stressed, some expect their line managers to be more knowledgeable and others are bitter about not being allowed to work from home? It’s not like it’s going to weaken the workforce or harm the bottom line, is it?
It’s funny you should say that. Mainly because it’s completely untrue. In 2018, the UK economy lost £35 billion due to mental health issues. Research has shown that happy employees are up to 20% more productive. And a significant percentage of male employees are beginning to say not enough is, well, not enough.
Changing jobs seeking flexibility
“One third of dads have changed jobs since becoming a dad, with 39% of these dads pinpointing ‘flexibility to fulfil parental responsibilities’ as a reason,” highlighted Daddilife’s The Millennial Dad at Work report. It then went on to reveal that another third of the dads who responded were actively looking for a new role, with workplace flexibility once again the main driving force.
With the average cost of replacing an employee reported to be greater than £30,000, these percentages should send a shiver that is part-fear and part-excitement down the spines of the nation’s finance teams.
An easy fix
Part-fear, because of potential financial implications of a mass dad exodus. And part-excitement, because of the ease with which a company can fix this issue. Simply show that you appreciate that a dad is for life not just paternity leave. A sentiment that is best expressed by putting plans in place to offer new fathers flexible working opportunities. Training line managers around how to best support new dads in the workplace. And holding regular wellness workshops where dads can meet other dads (isolation is a big issue for men during their first year as a dad), open up about how they are feeling and air any suggestions they have around things they would like the company to consider moving forward. Bish. Bash. Bosh. Job done.
It’s not rocket science. It’s not that expensive in the grand scheme of things. And it will help companies to retain and attract talent. Or, to put it another way. Win, win, win, win, win.
So, what can you do to speed things up?
But what can you, the employee, do to help the situation? Simple.
- Speak up – men are notorious for suffering in silence. Don’t. Tell your line manager and HR team about any difficulties you are having and what you’d like them to do to help.
- Get involved – a lot of people sign up for wellness workshops and then drop out on the day due to “having loads of work on”. This might help you in the short term, but in the long-term it sends a bad message that reads “actually these workshops aren’t that important” to HR teams. As well as workshops, look out for the solutions that are catered for dads specifically too, like Dad Connect!
- Volunteer – your company will need someone to lead “the dad programme”, and that someone could be you. Aw, don’t be like that. It’ll help you meet other dads/contacts, look good on the C.V. and enable you to create events and have a say around how it works.
- Always remember that a dad is for life not just paternity leave.