At present 38% of dads feel they don’t spend enough time with their children. This is a source of great concern to us at Fathers Network Scotland, and it will also ring alarm bells for Senior Leaders and HR managers seeking to foster employee loyalty and maintain productive working environments.
It’s one of the reasons that an array of organisations, including the Scottish Government, partnered with us to make 2016 Year of the Dad – a celebration of the difference a great dad can make to our children, our families, and our society at large which includes our workplaces.
The evidence is now overwhelming that children benefit in all kinds of ways from the positive involvement of both parents. And forward-thinking companies are already reaping the dad dividend by supporting parents in their workforce.
Over half of mothers surveyed by the Fawcett Society earlier this year had taken at least six months leave compared to the two weeks or less taken by 75% of dads
One reason for this is that most leave will be taken by the parent who earns the higher wage, and it’s no surprise that in most cases this is dad, and his salary is too important to forego. So gender inequality runs through both the corporate and domestic worlds, in a way that harms both parents. As Gloria Steinem put it: “Women are not going to be equal outside the homeuntil men are equal in it."
Indeed, fathers who do take leave appear to have a direct effect on narrowing the gender pay gap: research from Sweden has shown that for every additional month of leave dads take mums’ careers earnings increase by 6.7%!
Those with older teenage children will vividly understand the benefits of a having an equally engaged dad – one who can listen and be there not just for the nappy changing years but for the stormy teenage years which last much longer!
And those dads aren’t created overnight. We know from our friends in the Nordic countries – where dedicated “daddy leave” is given on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, rather than voluntarily as in the UK - that confident parenting is often grown from having periods as sole carers of the children in those early years.
All parents benefit from another person who will share responsibility for childcare, housework, finances and emotional support – it does wonders for our emotional health, while managing on your own is stressful.
Why should employers care? Because if home lives are stressed, this seeps into work. Indeed, stress is the number one cause of absenteeism in the work place, with families and personal relationships the second highest cause of this stress, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Employers want homes to be buffers for workplace stress, not contributors to it. Happy mums and dads in strong resilient relationships make engaged employees. And an open and trusting environment at work helps to attract and retain these productive motivated people.
Research by Relationships Scotland found 72% of dads would chose an employer who understands and supports a better work-life balance - which means it’s now equally important for dads as it is for mums.
In the Year of the Dad and beyond, we have a golden opportunity to make our homes and workplaces more equal and fair. Managers in particular have a chance to model what a working mum or dad looks like today in Scotland – to challenge the persistent stereotype of women as primary carers facilitating dads as main wage-earners.
Let’s share parenting in a way that shows we care about children’s educational attainment, health and emotional well-being. These people are our future who will hopefully care for us when our working lives have ended!
There is a still a long way to go. Even in Iceland, the paragon of equality, employer attitudes still make it more difficult for men to take leave then women – but this too is changing with nearly 90% of dads taking more than three months’ leave.
And tellingly, Iceland has among the smallest gender wage gaps, and the highest rates of female participation in the labour market of OECD countries – not to mention the lowest levels of childhood mortality. [wikigender]
In the end we have to ask ourselves what’s important to us as a society. I believe dads taking leave and using flexible family-friendly policies is one step towards better outcomes for mum, dad, employers and more importantly the children - who are our future workforce.