Fathers jealous of perceived maternity advantage, says paper

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Fathers trying to secure flexible working arrangements see themselves at a disadvantage compared to women, according to an academic paper on the subject.

Parents, Perceptions and Belonging: Exploring Working Among UK Fathers and Mothers features in-depth interviews with working mothers and fathers. 

It suggests male workers feel 'flex envy', as they face barriers to flexible working that they don't believe exist for women. 

However, Caroline Gatrell, senior lecturer at Lancaster University Management School and co-author of the paper, told HR magazine this view is often wide of the mark. 

"A lot of factors mean that fathers see themselves facing struggles that they believe are exclusive to them," she said. "In truth, women have faced these problems for years. In many cases the difference is that women are aware of these issues and are prepared to fight for their rights."

Gatrell added that this is particularly true of women who are on their second or third child. Despite the skewed perceptions men have, the paper suggests that real barriers do exist for fathers, especially where the traditional family structures break down. 

"Managers often assume that when a man becomes a father, there is a woman at home who is able and prepared to do the bulk of the caring," Gatrell said. "This isn't always the case. In some instances the mother has left, or even died, and the man is the sole carer."

The paper also has contributions from Cary Cooper and Paul Sparrow, both leading HR thinkers and academics at Lancaster University Management School. It was compiled in conjunction with Working Families, a UK charity that helps workers achieve a better work-life balance.

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