Written by Michelle Chance, employment partner at Kingsley Napley LLP, and co-founder of the Association of Professional Working Parents (APWP).
On Friday Labour's shadow childcare minister Lucy Powell called for cultural change in the workplace so that fathers feel able to take more time off with their children.
She said new Fathers need more supportive bosses and higher paternity pay since simply passing laws enhancing paternity rights is not enough.
She also suggested that Dads should get more vocal to enhance their lot – their right to work flexibly and to change the acceptability of this and make it “the norm” as for mothers in the workplace.
Here here! I agree with Ms Powell on all counts.
In my view, it is only when more Dads take up their parental rights and do so openly, that maternal issues will truly become parental issues and only then will there be a level playing field in the workplace.
New rules will come into force in April next year allowing new parents to share the 52 weeks of leave previously only available to mothers.
But until Fathers, particularly those in the City, are bold enough to take up their rights, speak openly of their Fatherly-credentials in the office and not fear detrimental treatment in terms of remuneration and promotion prospects for such, we will not see the real fruits of legislative change.
Current rules allow for enhanced paternity leave but the take up of this is woeful. I concur with Ms Powell that what is really needed to change the landscape is a change in workplace culture. We need bosses who walk the talk and don’t just pay lip service. A policy on the intranet just doesn’t cut it. We need to highlight where high profile Fathers work flexibly and for Dads not to be ashamed of working flexibly or leaving the office early to collect their children. Many fathers do work flexibly and have done so for a long time. They just don’t talk about it or give it the oxygen that younger fathers need them to. We need others to know that clients won’t suffer, the world won’t fall apart, teams can support each other and working practices can fit to a certain extent around family needs, even in the City.
In my role I see many professional mothers increasingly emboldened by the chance to work flexibly in order to pursue their career along with their parental duties. Only by men taking a similarly open approach to combining careers and hands-on fatherhood will we create a truly equal workplace with equal opportunities for career progression for all parents.
A number of men in the public sector, in local government, in the NHS, in teaching and in politics are increasingly prepared to embrace the new father role model in public as well as private.
The City however is lagging behind with regards to the 'new family' dynamics. New rights to flexible working for all employees come into force at the end of this month. This is an opportunity to laud flexible working and commitment to family life. So whether City men want to be more devoted fathers, give time to a charitable vocation or look after their ailing parents, the legal landscape will now support these possibilities – in theory. But the law alone is not enough, employees need more.
The key to the door remains workplace culture. So come on Anthony Jenkins, Mark Carney, Mr Horta Osario et al. Dont just celebrate Father’s day quietly at home on a Sunday. Put your family cards on the table at work too. Don’t just boast about your organisation’s female friendliness, put Father friendliness and parental rights generally on the agenda as well. Join the co-parenting club and don’t be coy about it!