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Is the UK creating a 'fatherhood penalty?'

The Modern Families Index suggests the UK is stifling fathers' aspirations. The UK risks creating a 'fatherhood penalty' as fathers consider stalling or side-lining their careers to find a better work-life balance.

The 2017 Modern Families Index, published on 16th January 2017 by work-life charity Working Families and Bright Horizons, shows fathers increasingly want to play an active part in childcare and workplaces are failing to adapt.

According to the study, family is the highest priority for fathers. 25% of fathers that took part in the study drop their children at school or nursery every day.

70% of fathers work flexibly to fulfil their childcare obligations, and half of the fathers believe work-life balance is a significant source of stress. One third of fathers suffer from burn-out.

A key problem identified by the study is the workplace culture in the UK. When compared with mothers, twice as many fathers believe that flexible workers are viewed as less committed and that working flexibly will have a negative impact on their career.

Fathers complain the workplace is unsupportive of their aspirations for a better work-life balance. For nearly one fifth, their employer is unsupportive about childcare, permitting no disruption to their work.

Nearly half of working fathers (47%) want to downshift into a less stressful job and 38% of fathers say that they would be willing to take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance.


Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families, said:

“To prevent a 'fatherhood penalty' emerging in the UK - and to help tackle the motherhood penalty - employers need to ensure that work is designed in a way that helps women and men find a good work-life fit.

A game-changing first step would be government creating a new, properly paid, extended period of paternity leave - sending clear signal that government recognises the aspirations of modern fathers and is serious about tackling the motherhood penalty that blights the working lives of so many women.”


Denise Priest, Director of Employer Partnerships at Bright Horizons, said:

“It's clear that the reconciliation of work and family life is now a priority for both mothers and fathers. It is impossible to overstate the positive impact of an understanding and supportive employer - one that adapts to its employees' needs so that they can progress in their careers. Leading employers are those that protect their employees from parental penalties and provide optimum work and care arrangements.”


Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee said:

“The Modern Families Index shines a much-needed light on the experiences of British fathers in the workplace. Many fathers want to take a more active role in caring for their children and our Committee's inquiry into the Gender Pay Gap last year found that sharing caring responsibilities equally between mothers and fathers is the key to reducing the Gender Pay Gap. However, the Government's flagship policy of Shared Parental Leave is likely to have little impact as it is predicted by the Government to have a take-up rate of just 2-8%.

We are now launching a new inquiry into Fathers and the Workplace to look at whether fathers are getting the support they need in the workplace to fulfil their caring responsibilities. We look forward to hearing from Working Families and others as we conduct this Inquiry.”

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