In June 2018, the government responded to a Women and Equalities Committee report on fathers in the workplace, rejecting many of their recommendations on paternity leave and pay, shared parental leave and flexible working.
This response is disappointing, given the situation facing many working fathers in the UK today. Working Families modern families index 2017, published in January 2017, shows work-life balance is increasingly a source of stress for men and younger fathers, who particularly resent work interfering with family life. Yet men are still being denied opportunities to be more involved in caring. Uptake of shared parental leave is as low as 2%, according to government figures published in February 2018, and fathers are twice as likely to have flexible working requests turned down as mothers.
If men are expected to be the breadwinners while women are assumed to be caregivers, this can negatively affect women’s progress at work. Business in the Community research published in April 2014 found that 81% of women without children felt having a family would affect their career progression, while 93% of mothers said it was difficult to combine a successful career with caring responsibilities.
For employers, this represents a risk that their best talent, male and female, will leave for employers who are adapting to these societal changes, or drop out of the workforce altogether. That is why Business in the Community recently surveyed over 10,000 men and women across the UK for our Equal Lives project, in partnership with Santander UK. The project explores the barriers men face in taking on more caring responsibilities, how employers can support them to do more, and whether this will improve women’s progression at work. We will publish the results and recommendations for employers in the autumn.
While much of the effort around workplace gender equality has been understandably focused on women, if we want to truly change the working culture, then it is vital to hear from men too. By enabling both men and women to fulfil their potential at work and at home, we can create fair and inclusive workplaces that work for everyone.
Chloe Chambraud is gender equality director at Business in the Community