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Dads in private and public sectors benefit from flexible working, finds Working Families research

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Fathers working flexibly in the private sector have better physical and psychological health, are less stressed and more committed to their employer, while dads working flexibly in the public sector are less troubled by their work-life balance and are less likely to report higher levels of wellbeing and commitment, research reveals.

According to academic research undertaken on behalf of Working Families, fathers whose partners work full-time report significantly higher levels of wellbeing and sense of purpose, fathers who claim to do most of the housework are happier with their work-life balance and dads on a low income feel less stressed if they are able to work flexibly.

The research - funded by The Big Lottery and undertaken by Working Families and Lancaster University Management School - involved over 1,000 fathers in two large organisations in the private and public sectors. Commenting on the findings, work and pensions minister Maria Miller said: "For far too long, flexible working has been dismissed as a burden on business, when in fact the most successful businesses understand the important role it can play in recruiting and retaining the right staff.

"We need to move flexible working away from being the exception, to being considered a normal way to work. With fathers wanting more of a role in family life, people working past retirement and more disabled people wanting to get into work, flexible working is something most people will want to consider at some point in their working life."

Working Families chief executive Sarah Jackson, said: "Our research shows that flexible working is good for fathers, good for families and good for business. We would urge fathers who are feeling stressed to look at the options available in their workplace and to call our helpline if they need help to negotiate their right to request flexible working."

Michelle Chance, employment partner at law firm Kingsley Napley, added: "As more fathers opt to work flexibly and take extended paternity rights, this should help equalise gender issues in the workplace over time. I am convinced problems that have predominantly affected working mothers will increasingly become parental issues in future.

The playing field between the genders at interview stage should also level out if there becomes an equal 'risk' from the employer's perspective of men taking extended parental leave, as there is of women taking maternity leave.

"I have real concerns that the Government's recent proposal to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees will adversely affect the rights of working parents. It will be an administrative nightmare for employers who will need to balance more carefully than ever the competing rights of employees with different personal needs and domestic arrangements, if they are to avoid costly litigation.

"It will no longer be easy to prioritise flexible working requests from parents or carers, as rights will be enhanced across the workforce. For example, how will an employer legitimately choose between whether to prioritise a flexible working request from someone who wants to work flexibly so they can volunteer for charity work as part of Cameron's Big Society, as opposed to a flexible working request from a parent of a young child?"