Dad’s the word

DOTING dads are being hampered in their attempts to play the loving father because of old-fashioned stereotypes and perceptions at work, a report just out is suggesting. According to new research by the TUC, more men than ever are now plucking up the cour

DOTING dads are being hampered in their attempts to play the loving father because of old-fashioned stereotypes and perceptions at work, a report just out is suggesting.

According to new research by the TUC, more men than ever are now plucking up the courage to ask their boss if they can work flexibly.

But statistics reveal that they are having next to no luck in their efforts to be modern and mature men, especially in comparison to their female counterparts.

The TUC's Out Of Time report says that the reluctance of employers to let more male employees change their working day in some way, after they become parents, is reinforcing the idea that it is working mums' responsibility to reduce their hours and juggle the childcare with work when the kids are little.


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Not only does this mean that fathers are prevented from lavishing as much time and attention on their young family as they would like, it also means that women end up paying a part-time job and pay penalty, because they're forced into jobs well below their skill potential.

Further to this, the fairer sex also loses out when it comes to future pensions payouts, because of all the time they end up spending out of the labour market.

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And the domino effect ripples on. The subsequent slide in family income caused by their partners having to switch to part-time working means fathers must keep their noses to the grindstone even longer, missing out on quality time with their families and fuelling the UK's long hours culture at the same time.

Talk about a vicious cycle.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "By accepting flexible work requests from their female employees, but not from their male staff members, employers are helping to reinforce the gender pay gap stereotype, when instead they could be enabling dads to play a more active role in the raising of their children.

Reiterating the business benefits of a change in people's perceptions and attitudes, he added: "Many UK bosses are too short-sighted to grasp the fact that a flexible approach to work is not something to fear as expensive and irritating, but a change which makes sound business sense, both in terms of company profits, and staff recruitment and retention."

Although working dads are less likely than females in similar positions to consider changing their working arrangements, when they do decide to take the plunge and have a word with their boss, they are more likely to have their request turned down, figures reveal.

In the first two years after parents of children under the age of six were given the right to request flexible working, around 10 per cent (1,267,000) of male employees approached their bosses about taking advantage of the new legislation, compared to 19 per cent of women (2,375,000).

However, only 10 per cent of these women (235,000) had their flexible working requests rejected out of hand, compared to 14 per cent of men (177,000), which certainly seems to imply that firms look more favourably upon requests from females.

Yet only a handful of disappointed workers who had their requests rejected ever decided to do battle at tribunal, according to the report.

But even in the courts it looks as though the odds are stacked firmly against the nation's dads, as claims submitted by men are much less likely to be successful than those by women.

Statistics show that male claimants account for just over a quarter (27 per cent) of flexible working tribunal claims, but make up nearly half (45 per cent) of cases that were lost, ruled out on procedural grounds or dismissed.

So, working dads certainly seem to face higher hurdles and more of them at every single turn they take.

Yet although the TUC is keen for there to be 'a more equitable share of work between men and women - at home and at work', the buck certainly doesn't stop there and the union is calling for an entirely new approach to the way work is organised across the UK.

Mr Barber explained: "The UK's long hours culture will never be challenged if it's only parents and carers who can ask to change their hours, and if it remains all too easy for inflexible employers to say 'no'."

In the meantime, companies should re-think their attitudes and perceptions, and quash sexist, old-fashioned notions.

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