New resources to drive workplace gender equality

The Equal Parenting unit at the University of Birmingham has used its research to draw up a range of useful resources to help workplaces support parents

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Researchers, business leaders, MPs and campaigners came together to launch a new set of resources from the Equal Parenting Project today.

The research project aimed at helping mums and dads to share childcare is based at the University of Birmingham. At a Westminster reception co-directors Dr Sarah Forbes and Dr Holly Birkett unveiled their ‘Fathers in the workplace’ toolkit.

Supporting dads to get more involved in family life is a key step to helping mums progress in the workplace. The motto of the University of Birmingham’s Equal Parenting Project is ‘sharing childcare to drive gender equality in the workplace’.

The toolkit includes ideas and resources for firms looking to support working dads. It is free and can be found here. It contains a range of resources for big businesses and for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Toolkit tips

It includes five top tips for organisations to better support fathers in the workplace.

  1. Set up an inclusive parenting group More and more parents want opportunities to engage with other parents who might be facing similar situations and obstacles as them. Setting up an organisation wide parenting group or supporting employees to join a virtual one is extremely beneficial.
  2. Create a parenting passport A Parenting Passport is a ‘living’ document, which records information about a parent’s caring responsibilities and support needs. The passport can encourage an understanding between the parent employee and their organisation regarding their particular requirements over time.
  3. Improve communications on topics of relevance to fathers The Equal Parenting Project has identified the need for better communication in the workplace to improve awareness, overcome misinformation, promote a more inclusive culture and ensure more parents are using policies they wish to use. Better promotion of the policies available and the different ways families can use them can make a big difference. In the case of fathers, they may feel that taking SPL is not acceptable, this is where the use of Fatherhood Champions will help make policies appear accessible as well as help overcome any perceived barriers preventing fathers from requesting the leave.
  4. Develop a return to work plan for fathers taking longer periods of leave For many new fathers, returning to work after the birth of their child can be a hard time, and it can be difficult to find support in the workplace or maintain a work-life balance. It is recommended that the line manager has a meeting prior to the employee taking leave, this could be to discuss issues such as how pay and bonuses will be treated during leave. It is important to ensure fathers are assured of their entitlements and feel supported.
  5. Write inclusive policies which enhance pay above statutory if possible Employers must make sure that they clearly communicate their parental leave policies since the clarity and accessibility of information clearly impacts the take-up of the policies. Policies should be free of jargon and cover: statutory entitlements, eligibility criteria, and outline exactly what benefits are available and processes followed by the employee and employer. By doing this and clearly outlining to employees the leave and pay options available to parents and how to apply for them, more parents are likely to engage and use such policies.

Generous funding

The researchers, Dr Holly Birkett and Dr Sarah Forbes who are co-directors of the Equal Parenting Project, also call on firms to be as generous as possible in funding parental leave. Many fathers cite financial concerns as a reason for not taking more time off when they become fathers.

Dr Birkett explained that there is growing evidence that shows fathers want to spend more time with their families. However they cite a number of barriers including finances and cultural norms.

Dr Forbes added that “workplace culture needs a bit of a kick when it comes to fathers.”

‘Parent loudly’

Other speakers included KPMG Head of People Anna Purchas. She said that when she tours job fairs she finds students increasingly ask about paternity policies and she added, “Policies are great but practice is what matters.” She said KPMG encourages dads to ‘parent loudly’ – to role model by being clear when they are changing their work pattern to accommodate childcare needs.

Antony Fitzpatrick of Aviva, who spoke to us after the company won our Best for Dads award, emphasised that a successful parental leave policy has to be simple. He talked up the benefits to business of improving the offer to parents. Aviva recently published it’s latest statistics showing increasing takeup of extended paternity leave. Dads at the company now take an average of five months off.

The event concluded with a lively Q&A session that covered the particular challenges for small businesses, how to support parents of older children and what companies can do to share resources publicly. Tory MP Maria Miller, formerly chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, summed up and thanked everyone for taking part.

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