Developing a father-friendly workplace

by External28 Mar 2013

Research suggests work-life conflict is no longer just an issue for women and men are now experiencing higher levels of work-life conflict than before. Fiona Hitchiner outlines the importance of tools that support and recognise the importance of fathers as workers and parents.

President Obama recently addressed the importance of fatherhood in the State of the Union address, stating he wants to do more to encourage fatherhood – “because what makes you a man isn't the ability to conceive a child; it's having the courage to raise one."

The role of fathers has changed significantly in recent years. Fathers want to play a more active role in parenting, they are no longer satisfied with the breadwinner label, they want to be an equal participant in the day to day care and development of their children. New dads in particular have an expectation that their involvement will begin from before birth.

At the same time the importance of fathers in children’s lives has also been recognised and has been a much discussed topic of late. Research clearly shows the benefits of an involved dad, children are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident exploring their surroundings and as they grow older have better social connections.

While the increase in expectation and recognition of the dad’s importance has increased, unfortunately the support to encourage dad’s involvement is often lacking. It is therefore no wonder that according to a recent report by Centre for Work & Family – Boston College - Moving life forward, the research suggests the work-life conflict is no longer just an issue for women and men are now experiencing higher levels of work-life conflict than before.

Men are still reluctant to take advantage of family friendly provisions for fear of impacting their careers for example flexible work options. Coupled with a lack of understanding of what entitlements and programs are available results in an increase in work life conflict.

The benefits of developing an environment that supports and recognises the importance of fathers as workers and parents is a win/win for everyone. Employers benefit from more engaged and productive workers and the father and child benefit from a bond that will last a lifetime.

The recent changes in government and organisation policy have made some in-roads into supporting fathers. The recent introduction of Dad & Partner pay and the change in focus of the Workplace Gender Equality Act from women in leadership to gender equality are all positive steps in the right direction. The proposed expansion of the right to request flexible work arrangements to include: 

 

  • Employees with a disability
  • Employees who are parents, or have responsibility for care of a child of school age
  • Workers with caring responsibility
  • Mature age employees
  • Those experiencing family violence or providing care to those experiencing family violence

This highlights the need to make flexible work options more widely acceptable and not just the provision of mothers.

Some organisations are already down the path of implementing father friendly policies and programs and some of the best practice ideas include: 

 

  • Developing and communicating work-life programs as gender neutral
  • Promoting awareness of father focused leave entitlements such as Dad & Partner Pay, Unpaid Parental Leave and even Parental Leave Pay if they are the primary carer
  • Surveying employees to understand which work-life initiative or program would be most meaningful
  • Offering employee groups that appeal to the needs and interests of your diverse workforce including parenting groups that are available for both men and women
  • Promoting flexible work options and providing male role-models where flexible work is successful

 

Achieving greater engagement of fathers in parenting support programs requires an understanding of their unique needs and greater promotion of what is already available.

To read the full Moving Work-Life Forward report by Centre for Work & Family, Boston College click here

 

About the author

Fiona Hitchiner is the Product Director at SeventeenHundred. For further information visit www.seventeenhundred.com.au or email:fiona@seventeenhundred.com.au | 1300 00 1700

COMMENTS

  • by Leanne Faraday-Brash 1/04/2013 1:40:47 PM

    Any legislative or policy change that legitimises and enables better work-life balance for fathers is to be applauded. We all know the law plays catch-up to the hearts and minds of society. This issue will only grow in pertinence and companies that are hospitable to these emerging cultural norms will have competitive advantage.
    I coach many often senior guilt-ridden, remorseful and fretful men who have made a career of being absent during the child rearing years. Of course there will always be some happy to walk in the door, just in time to kiss kids good night but they will often end up paying the price in estrangement from partners and/or kids.
    Over time, the economic argument of women earning more than their male partners or relishing ascendency in their careers will also stimulate demand for family friendlies for men at work.
    Providing wives don't come home at the end of a long day and find an empty fridge, dinner conspicuous by its absence and a playroom carpet full of toys, what's not to like?

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