Inflexible work forcing fathers to take sick days for childcare

One in five fathers have faked illness at work to manage childcare duties, according to meeting provider PowWowNow.

Its research found a lack of flexible working was the main barrier to fathers’ involvement with childcare, with 54% of fathers arguing their work schedule prevents them from doing as much as they would like to.

This lack of flexibility leads to faking sickness or a change in career - of which 20% have done to better suit their childcare needs.

Speaking to HR magazine Sarah-Jane Butler, CEO and founder of provider Parental Choice, said the results were an unsurprising sign of society biases.

“Whilst it is universally presumed that mothers will be the ones to take care of children, often to the detriment of their own ambitions, fathers face the opposite problem and are expected to put work first.

“Society is still split towards mothers as the care providers and men as the bread winners to such an extent that in many areas people almost ‘pity’ or ‘deride’ fathers for taking a positive step towards achieving an equal balance with their partners.”

Nearly half of fathers have been discriminated against for taking care of their children, with 12% having lost their job after taking parental leave or working flexibly and 10% being demoted.

This, the report said, demonstrated the negative attitude towards fathers taking parental leave, with 13% suffering verbal abuse and 10% mocked for their actions.

Andrew Johnson, MD of PowWowNow, urged leaders to create a parental leave strategy which works for everyone.

He said: “There is no longer any excuse for companies not to provide flexible working options going forward to empower fathers to better balance work and family commitments. These need to include flexible hours as well as remote working options.

“We need parental leave that works for both men and women if we are to tackle gender disparities and create fair and happy societies.”

Butler advised male leaders to lead by example, with line managers training wellbeing strategies to support working parents.

“There should be no stigma on fathers actively playing a role in their children’s lives. HR can have a dramatic impact not only on new fathers through shared parental leave but also on fathers with older children who can stop fearing the impact being part of their children’s lives will have on their careers.”