A new generation of dads are more involved and present in their children’s lives than ever before. As we approach Christmas, what presents do dads at work want for 2020?
1) Improved paternity leave provision
With major businesses taking a lead in paternity and parental leave provision, the statutory offer is looking more and more outdated.
As I discussed in this previous article, extending maternity leave provision isn’t the answer to equality in the workplace. Well paid, use it or lose it paternity leave is key. There are a number of promising manifesto pledges – Labour have promised to increase to 4 weeks at £375 per week. Lib Dems – increase to 6 weeks, SNP – increase to 12 weeks.
Until the working dads “vote” is as powerful and organised as the working mums vote, unfortunately policies that directly benefit men with indirect benefits for women aren’t politically attractive. For the moment dads may have to make do with seeking out enhanced paternity provision from large corporates.
Which is where the next present would be very useful…
2) Publish parental leave packages
The requirement in law to publish gender pay differentials has been a powerful tool to drive change and awareness of the workplace system that doesn’t serve the cause of retaining and promoting the best female talent.
In October 2018 the government announced that it planned to consult on a bill that would require large employers to publish their parental leave package.
“Business secretary Greg Clark said that the change would make it easier for job applicants to make “informed decisions about whether they can combine a role with caring for their family”.
The business secretary highlighted that most job applicants are reluctant to ask in interviews about a prospective employer’s family-friendly policies, for fear of being discriminated against.”
Transparency in this area could represent the opportunity of raising of the bar for everyone. Talent would start to flow to businesses with the best policies and the rest would need to take note.
3) Support in the workplace for all new parents
Becoming a parent is massive life change – as much for men as it is for women. Men face the challenge of limited leave, financial and cultural pressures of being a sole breadwinner on reduced income. It’s tough, 25% of men show signs of Post Natal Depression and 80% feel the pressure of being “the rock”.
For firms that already offer maternity return to work coaching or mentoring there is no excuse not to be supporting their new dads too and make no mistake it matters to Dads – according the Millennial Dads survey, 1/3 of dads have changed jobs since becoming a dad to try and find their optimal work/life balance.
Supporting new dads in the workplace is good for wellbeing, reducing stress, retaining talent and supporting gender diversity initiatives.
One such initiative to support dads in the workplace is the DadConnect programme
The feedback is a powerful indication of the benefits of supporting dads in the workplace.
Gave me a longer term picture in my head – incredibly productive, really insightful.
Keeping my mental capacity in shape.
You sometimes need to voice your concerns, be heard, and receive encouragement and advice from a believable person – Dad Connect provided that.
Top tip for 2020: Dads why not buddy up with your new dads at work, take them under your wing and help them to thrive in that manic first year.
4) Recognition that “balance” and flexibility aren’t just for working mums
Flexible working and work life balance are often used as short-hand for “perks” for mums. This is a failure on two levels:
- For the dads who want to design their working time more flexibly.
- For the mums who need certainty of flexible working, and find that they are trapped by the 26 week requirement.
A 2 tier system isn’t good for anyone.
Helping Dads to communicate their needs and desires about work life balance is vital. We need to move the conversation about flexible and part time working away from just being a female ‘issue’ to becoming a people issue.
When society and the workplace see flexible working and caring responsibilities as not just something that men want, but as something that men are supported to fulfil then this will drive benefits for everyone.
No longer will the only way to get ‘ahead’ be to be ‘all in’, fully committed to your job. We need to take the time and effort to communicate with men. To give them a safe space to share what they really want. And we can to start to design work to fit modern society.
Supported by the right role models, we can start to see men and women as equally likely to want parental leave or flexible working arrangements.
When we cannot tell which candidate is going to access flexible working arrangements the unconscious bias that associates women with caring and men with ‘commitment’ to work disappears.
Men get the opportunities to be carers and women don’t have to seek out flexible work in order to return to work. Everyone has a genuine choice as to how to organise their lives. And equality at home and in the workplace takes a massive leap forward.
5) Flexible working by default
In the UK, the law says that after 26 weeks of employment you are able make a “statutory application” for flexible working. Everyone has a legal right to request, not just parents.
The key aspects of the legislation are:
- The employer considers the request and makes a decision within 3 months – or longer if agreed with the employee.
- Employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’.
- An employer can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.
- If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee giving the business reasons for the refusal.
- Employees can only make one application for flexible working a year.
What does this mean in practice?
- Overall, 30% of requests for flexible working are turned down
- But this number rises to 40% for men
- And further research shows that ONLY 19% of men who asked to work from home 1-2 days a week were accepted.
The inability to easily access flexible working arrangements bad for stress levels, mental health and caring responsibilities. The way the system is set up hampers the ability to move jobs and ties people to existing arrangements. This is often to the detriment of pay rise and promotion opportunities.
Furthermore, it allows for discrimination between those who need flexible arrangements for caring responsibilities (frequently women but increasing men too), and those who feel unable to ask for flexible working for fear of career penalties.
Either way it’s not good for talent retention and equality of opportunity.
Moves in Parliament
In July 2019, Conservative MP Helen Whately introduced the Flexible Working Bill, to make all jobs flexible by default unless the employer has a sound business reason why particular hours in a particular place are required. This bill ran out of parliamentary time, but you can read more about it here.
The Labour party have pledged to give all workers the right to choose working hours that suit them by creating a presumption in favour of flexible working except where the employer is able to prove that a job is not suitable for flexible working.
The onus would be on the employer to show that a job is not suitable for flexible working. Rather than on the worker to show that it is.
Cross party support combined with the powerful #FLEXFORALL campaign and a clear sense that it directly supports working mums make this attractive and more likely that most initiatives to succeed.
Unwrapping a different future
So there you go. Five presents that would give dads at work what they want; choices and the opportunity to be an active and engaged father.
What changes would you want to unwrap for 2020?