Han-Son Lee pens his thoughts on whether 2020 could be the year of change for working dads.
Though we seem to be rocketing through 2020 already, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the undoubted progress that 2019 brought to modern-day dads at work.
Deloitte, Diageo, O2, and Standard Life Aberdeen were amongst the many large employers who re-looked at their parental leave policies and took great strides in recognising the role of the modern day as someone who is actively involved in day-to-day parenting.
Dads are going through a generational shift when it comes to their parental involvement, and yet it is only within the last year that pockets of significant change at work have started to emerge.
Marketing and HR differences
It has been a constant conundrum as to why, from a marketing perspective, many brands have cottoned on to the growth of the dad market, with new product lines like dad changing bags – relatively unheard of five years ago – now all the rage.
The pace of change in HR/Culture teams has been somewhat different, though. Our own research The Millennial Dad at Work, in association with Deloitte, last year surveyed over 2,000 dads between the ages of 24-40. It showed just how many of them were striving for new ways of working, yet were constantly coming up against organisational barriers.
Sixty-three per cent of all the fathers we surveyed had requested some form of flexible working (be that change in working hours, working from home, job sharing or compressed hours), since becoming a father. However the levels of approval for these were shockingly low:
- 14 per cent of all those surveyed had requested to work from home one or two days per week, but fewer than one in five were successful.
- 39 per cent had requested a change in working hours with only just over half being successful.
All of this comes at a time where our research showed that 87 per cent of millennial dads are actively involved in day-to-day parenting.
2020 – a call for faster change
Parental leave is a great start, but it doesn’t cover the entire employee experience. While employers and the government still carry a prevailing attitude of parenting and work as a ‘mums only’ world, dads will continue to make limited progress.
Here are the employer and government changes that I believe are needed:
- Publish parental leave packages: The requirement in UK law to now publish gender pay differentials has been a game changer in raising awareness of the issues for many women at work. Back in 2018, there was consultation on a bill that would require large organisations to publish their parental leave package. It didn’t make it very far on that occasion, but transparency in the area of parental leave could create the sort of push for equality that the gender pay gap has done.
- Support all working parents: There is a growing body of research that shows how more men are showing signs of postpartum depression (25 per cent). Firms that have seen this happen with working mums a generation ago started to implement mentoring and other learning and support schemes. We now need to look at those solutions for dads as well. It’s for that reason we created Dad Connect, a mentoring programme for new dads at work.
- Re-think what ‘flexibility’ means: Flexible hours, or job flexibility should be a much-heralded initiative, but too often it’s considered as ‘people doing less work.’
I can assure you the very opposite is true. How do we change the language and perception around flexible work? That’s something employers can influence directly.
- Focus on the small, not the big: Large organisations with deep pockets will continue to change their policies with vigour this year and beyond. Why?
(a) Because they have a responsibility to so.
(b) Because they can afford to.
Governments don’t need to help big business anymore. They need to help the SME community – the millions of small teams that account for a majority of our economy.
A consultation is needed on these smaller organisations, where the effect of maternity and paternity is far greater in human terms than big organisations that tend to absorb it.
- Shout about it, but do it right: two years ago the government launched its ‘share the joy’ campaign – specifically targeted at addressing the small number of Shared Parental Leave take ups. The campaign may have increased awareness, but it didn’t address the problem, which was a lack of statutory provision that made it economically challenging for most dads to take it and an admin process that HR teams were not trained up enough on.
- Be an example: I applauded ex MP Jo Swinson when she took her baby into Parliament in 2018. It was the sort of action that spoke volumes about modern day parenting at work.
How wonderful would it be for a new-dad MP to do the same. Could 2020 be that year?
Han-Son Lee is the founder of Daddilife.