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British fathers worry that asking to work flexibly will damage their careers

British fathers fear flexible working is damaging to their careers, so are struggling with long hours to balance work and family, new research reveals.

A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found British men want to take a more active role in caring for their children but four in 10 fathers say they spend too little time with them.

Almost half (45%) of men fail to take two weeks' paternity leave after the birth of their child with the most common reason provided being because they can't afford to. And two-fifths fear that asking for flexible working arrangements would result in their commitment to their job being questioned and would negatively affect their chances of a promotion.
But the report also highlights an opportunity for employers to gain a competitive advantage in recruitment, as two thirds of fathers consider the availability of flexible working to be important when looking for a new job.

The EHRC advises employers to expand paternity and paternal leave schemes.

The Commission advises fathers to have two weeks' paternity leave at the birth of their child at 90% pay; four months of dedicated 'parental leave' with at least eight weeks of leave being at 90% pay; and another four months' parental leave that can be taken by either mother or father, eight weeks of which is taken at 90% pay.

Andrea Murray, acting group director of strategy at the EHRC, said: "Today's families require a modern approach to balancing work and childcare commitments. Fathers are telling us they are not spending enough time with their families and want to take a more active role in shaping the lives of their children.

"Two-thirds of fathers see flexible working as an important benefit when looking for a new job. This highlights an opportunity for British businesses to use flexible working as an incentive for attracting and retaining the most talented of employees.

"Some companies that have adopted forward thinking policies towards families are reporting increased productivity, reduction in staff turnover, reduced training costs and an ability to respond better to customer requirements."

Audrey Williams, partner and head of discrimination law at  Eversheds, added:  "As it transpires, even before the release of this EHRC survey, the Government had acted on its long held commitment to improving parental leave rights.

"The Government estimates that between 10 and 20,000 fathers may take up the right to additional paternity leave each year. It will be interesting to see whether this transpires and whether the current 55% of fathers who do so will increase. It will also be interesting to see whether over time and coupled with other sociological shifts in attitude to equality, these changes will engender more far reaching consequences in the work place. Also, whether employers will opt to extend enhanced maternity pay schemes to fathers as a recruitment incentive."