Fathers and the workplace Contents


The Government must reform workplace policies to support fathers to better balance their parental responsibilities and work and to ensure they meet the needs of the twenty-first century family. Fathers in particular want to be supported at work to take a more equal share of childcare when children are young.

The Government says it wants to “enable families to share caring roles more easily and equitably to deliver positive employment outcomes.”1 However, we have heard evidence from employer organisations, unions, researchers, think-tanks and experts, but most importantly from fathers and mothers themselves, that the current policies supporting fathers in the workplace do not deliver what they promise, despite good intentions. This is particularly the case for less well-off fathers. The right to request flexible working has not created the necessary cultural change in the workplace and the Government itself told us that its shared parental leave policy, intended to allow fathers to share care in their child’s first year, will not meet its objective for most fathers. The Government’s campaign in 2018 to promote shared parental leave is welcome but will not be enough to deliver the kind of change the Government wants to see for fathers and their families.

Paid paternity leave was only introduced in the UK in 2003, and this historical lack of workplace support for fathers both reflects and reinforces cultural assumptions about traditional gender roles where the father is the breadwinner and the mother is the primary carer. While we recognise and welcome the positive steps forward there have been for working fathers in recent years, we do not think they should have to wait longer for workplace policies to catch up with the social changes that are taking place in men and women’s lives. Incremental change now will not meet the needs of fathers, mothers, children or the economy in the future.

Our recommendations are framed to balance the needs of fathers, mothers and employers. Most of all, they are intended to help the Government to deliver its objectives of creating real change in the lives of fathers and mothers. Our key recommendations are:

1 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (FWP0054)

15 March 2018