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Posts Tagged ‘working dads’

Another day, another study.  This one comes fromDad and Daughter the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The headline information is that ‘Fathers want more time with their children too.  Probably not something anyone with young children will be surprised about.

This is a quantitive yougov survey of 4,500 parents as part of the EHRC’s wider  ‘Working Better’ policy initiative which is aiming to explore ways of matching employers and employees expectations.

Dads’ working life

Unsurprising fact of the day: 6 in 10 fathers work more than 40hrs a week.  Bearing this in mind it is hardly surprising that over half then go on to say that they spend too much time at work and 4 in 10 fathers say they spend too little time with their children.

Almost half of dads believed that flexible working was available to them, but only 30% were taking up this option.   Flexible working in this survey meant flexi-time, staggered start and finish times and working from home.  Only 20% of dads believed that the option of part time working was open to them.  Tease these figures out a little more and some discrepancies appear.  Fathers in the financial and business or public sectors were more likely to be able to work flexibly than fathers in manufacturing, retail, construction and transport.

Inequality

Another area where external inequality rears it’s ugly head is in ‘Meeting Aspirations’.  The survey posed the question:

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that your current [work] arrangements cause tension or stress in your family’.

The number of fathers who agreed or strongly agreed:

  • 21% of all fathers
  • 31% of ethnic minority fathers
  • 31% of fathers earning under £15,000 per year
  • 33% of fathers with a disabled child or children

So, for around a third of families where the father is from an ethnic minority, on a low income or with a disabled child the working arrangements cause tension and stress.  The report doesn’t focus in too much detail on this but gives evidence from other studies that shows that in large part this is due to financial pressure.  Fathers with a disabled child are more likely to be working part time and fathers from ethnic minorities are more likely to be on a low income.

Paternity Leave

At present every father is entitled to two weeks paternity leave, paid at the rate of £123.06 per week and 13 weeks of unpaid leave.  Perhaps it is no great shock to realise that 45% of fathers didn’t take the paternity leave.  And 66% of those fathers would have liked to have taken paternity leave.  The most common reason for not taking it was financial.

The report goes on to talk about aiming to have a transferrable maternity/paternity leave of one year so that in theory both parents could take six months leave, or the mother nine months and father three months or whatever variation they liked.  Apparently this is under consultation at the moment and may come in in 2011 but only if the mother returns to work.

So, if a family have opted for this and then decide that the best thing for their child is for one or both parents to raise the baby, I can seem to see what the situation would be.  Would they have to pay all the money back?  Another barrier to women being at home with their babies?  Another barrier to men sharing the raising of their children?

Where fathers and mothers differ

I have to say this made me laugh a little.  The survey asked if primary responsibility for childcare was shared between the mother and father.  31% of fathers said that it was compared to 14% of mothers.  The report considers whether fathers with shared responsibility would be more likely to answer a survey like this, but concludes that as these figures reflect previous study findings then it is just a discrepancy.

I wonder if it is a poorly worded question, and if they had asked ‘is childcare equally shared’ then they would have had a clearer picture.  Parents can take equal responsibility for childcare even if they decide together that one parent will do the majority of it.  And maybe the question posed isn’t clear enough in this.

Report Policy Recommendations

The report concludes that policy-makers should:

  • Introduce policy changes that enable dads to take up paternity and parental leave
  • Make paternity and parental leave longer, better paid and more flexible
  • Target fathers with a publicity drive to increase awareness of flexible working rights
  • Subsidise employers to enable them to offer flexible working

The missing conclusion

I don’t think anyone will be taken aback by this report.  We know that the families in the UK have the longest working hours in Europe and low levels of overall satisfaction and contentment with life.

I am saddened that it is being used in some of the press as a stick to beat mothers with (surprise surprise).  ‘See it’s not just you whining women, dad’s want to spend time with their kids too – spare a thought for them’ seems to be the tone of a number of media reports.

Something that seems to be repeatedly highlighted but never mentioned in these surveys is that people are under huge financial pressure and this leads to difficulties in family life.  Women want to work less, men want to work less but you have to be brave to go for it when the cost of basic living is so extraordinarily high.  And you have to be a very strong family unit to weather the financial storm that seems to accompany a more reasonable and enjoyable family life.

I would have liked to see recommendations that reflected the fact that children do better when raised by their parents (not academically necessarily, but holistically).  I would like to see an acknowledgement that a lot of parents would like to raise their children themselves and a commitment to policies that relieve the financial barriers that currently prevent many families from realising this aim.

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