More than a third of working dads have taken time off sick to look after children and 44 per cent had lied to their employer about family issues, according to a new survey.
The Modern Families Index survey, published by Working Families and Bright Horizons, shows half of dads would be worried about asking to reduce their hours and 34 per cent said they would be nervous about asking their employer for time off for a family event.
The Index aims to capture an annual snapshot of how working families combine work and family life. Taking over 1,000 working families across the UK, the Index asks parents to describe the arrangements that they use to navigate everyday working life with dependent children and how they feel work and family life is shaped by this combination.
It shows that dads, particularly younger dads, want to be more involved in childcare and that young fathers are dropping off at school in greater numbers and more frequently than mothers in the under 25 age group. However, dads are more resentful towards their employers about their work and family balance and this is more pronounced in younger fathers. Nevertheless, despite their increasing involvement, mothers are still the first port of call when a school needs to call a parent and the workplace expectation is that mothers are ‘on call’, not fathers. Both mothers and fathers agreed that it was easier (and more acceptable) for women to take time off work for family reasons.
Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “The study underlines the value to mothers and fathers of dependable childcare, which is often the hidden glue helping to hold busy family lives together. For mothers in particular, dependable childcare is crucial to advancing their careers. Workplace culture is also very important to working families, and we strongly encourage employers to work with the grain of family life, so that parents can give of their best at work and at home.”
Other key findings include:
– Parents want dependable childcare, and would make sacrifices to get it. Women in particular are having to think carefully as they consider promotion opportunities because of childcare issues.
– There is a clear role for employers to be more involved in the provision of childcare. Childcare breakdown is a significant issue and has high work impacts in terms of disruption
– Parents are putting in extra hours just to get the job done. This is a combination of work pressure, jobs growing too large to be done within ‘normal’ hours and workplace cultures that still value presenteeism and long hours. Fathers are putting in the longest hours.
– Family is the highest priority for parents, whilst work is lower. Policy makers and employers should recognise this reality: working with the grain of parents’ values is likely to create happier, more effective employees. Practices like long hours and presenteeism, although believed to be productive, may have negative effects if they conflict with values about family life.
– Workplace stress is significant and not abating. The report says it is likely that the results of workplace stress spill over negatively into family life and also back into the workplace. Forty-one per cent of parents said that work life is becoming increasingly stressful.
– Work is impinging on family life. This affects both the time that families can spend together and partner relationships, says the report. It states: “Home is an essential ‘buffer’ against work, giving employees the chance to re-energise and remain mentally and physically healthy. If work demands eat into this buffer, then there will be negative effects within families and eventually within the workplace too.”
– Working time is affecting health. Work is eroding the time parents have to make healthy choices, such as having time to exercise or to cook properly, the report says.
– Time off for family reasons and discussing family at work is increasingly acceptable for fathers and more feel confident doing it. But discussing workload and putting boundaries upon work is something that fewer men are confident about, says the report.
– There are mixed attitudes towards shared parental leave (SPL). Parents favour more equality in caring responsibilities, but there are also strong gendered beliefs about the importance of the role of the mother. There is potential for these beliefs to come into conflict with each other within families. The effects of this are difficult to predict, says the report, but might lead to families eschewing SPL in favour of more ‘traditional’ patterns of leave.
– Two in five (39 per cent) of parents anticipate that they will become a carer in the next 10 years.