Should your business do more for working dads?

As Fathers' Day looms, is it really the case that working dads get a raw deal from employers?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

That's the conclusion of a survey from careers website, released to coincide with (/shamelessly cash in on) Fathers' Day this weekend. It proclaims that 72% of executives think UK companies should review and revise their company policies to help them be better fathers. According to the survey, men think being a father also makes them a better employee - yet they still don't feel comfortable asking for time off for paternity leave and family commitments. But given that some men don't even realise they're entitled to paternity leave, it suggests that employers may not be entirely to blame...

Nearly three-quarters of those polled said they didn't take enough time off when their children were born, while around half saying they were 'uncomfortable' about taking time out for family commitments like school sports days and parents meetings. The suggestion is that execs just don’t believe their line manager is going to give them time off to watch their kid’s egg-and-spoon race without thinking they're a lily-livered work-shy waste of space. 'Men still feel 'family' is a dirty word in the work environment,' bemoans TheLadders's MD Derek Pilcher.

The irony is, the study suggests, that being a father actually makes a man a better employee - so in fact employers ought to be actively encouraging them to embrace family life to the full. 79% of dads agreed that dads were an asset in the workplace (we worry for the other 21%, unless they're just being painfully honest about the negative impact of sleep deprivation etc), while Pilcher argues that it helps executives to 'manage stress, deal with conflict and motivate teams'. And we're quite willing to believe that wrestling with hyperactive small children probably is quite good preparation for dealing with an office of rampant egos.

On the other hand, it's not obvious how much of this is down to employers. For instance, men have a statutory right to two weeks of paid paternity leave under current employment law - but nearly one in three of those polled thought this was discretionary, while another 22% thought it was unpaid. It's probably also true that some men don't want to take two weeks - either because they'd prefer to space it out a bit, or because they want to come to the office for a rest...

And what this survey doesn't tell us is how many of those men that have never taken time off for family commitments have actually asked their employer about this – as opposed to just assuming it will be frowned upon. The latter would be an issue, but it’s hard to know how widespread that is these days. One thing’s for sure: if you don't ask, you don't get.

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