Dads face ‘fatherhood forfeit’ for working part time, says study



Fathers face bias when applying for part-time employment and in the workplace, with questions over their commitment and suspicion regarding their quest for a work-life balance, a new study suggests.

Research by the University of Plymouth showed fathers who choose to work part time face a number of potential issues while mothers receive praise for their dedication to proactively seeking a work-life balance.

The research was led by Jasmine Kelland, Lecturer in Human Resource Management within the Plymouth Graduate School of Management. She said: “In the UK, traditional patterns of employment and parenting are in decline, and the stereotype of fathers going to work while mothers raise a family are increasingly diminishing. Conversely, we are seeing an increasing number of fathers working fewer hours to accommodate family life, while mothers increasingly work full-time. In the context of these societal changes, a shift in the attitudes of employers is also required so that workers are treated fairly on the basis of their skill set rather than their familial choices.”

The study included an online survey completed by around 100 managers, where participants were asked to score fictitious applicants who were equal apart from their parental status. It also featured a focus group made up of managers and working parents, and a series of interviews with parents, managers and HR professionals.

The preliminary findings indicate that when wanting to work less hours fathers can be seen to face a small ‘fatherhood forfeit’, with mothers being scored five per cent higher than fathers through the online survey despite having similar qualifications and experience.

In the focus groups and interviews, the ‘fatherhood forfeit’ was apparent again with managers viewing fathers who wanted to work part-time with suspicion and considering them deviant. Fathers themselves said they felt they received less workplace support than mothers and had to make more of a case than their female counterparts when wanting to work part-time. They also reported often facing ‘Where is mum?’ discrimination’, felt a loss of status and had friendship issues as a result of their reduced working hours.

For the full-time post, the online survey bucked the trends shown in previous research which show a ‘motherhood penalty’ for full-time working mums, with the mother scoring eight per cent higher than her male counterpart. However, the focus groups were consistent with existing studies, with the female applicant facing questions about reliability as well as judgements about her partner’s ability to provide and concerns about her apparent wish not to spend more time with her children.

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