Fathers ‘afraid to ask for flexible working’

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Dads who want to be more involved in the care of their children fear that asking for more flexible hours might damage their careers, the chairwoman of a new probe into the issue says.

Conservative MP Maria Miller says such requests can even lead to employers questioning their workers’ commitment.

Research suggests 44% of dads have lied about family-related responsibilities.

The Women and Equalities Committee inquiry aims to find out how much support fathers receive at work.

It will begin to take evidence on Wednesday and hopes to uncover what evidence there is of demand for change.

MPs will look at how well fathers feel their current working arrangements help them to fulfil caring responsibilities for children of all ages – and if they have the financial support to carry these out.

The inquiry comes in the wake of the 2017 Modern Families Index, which found that while family was the highest priority for fathers, half of those interviewed felt their work-life balance was increasingly a source of stress.

It will also consider:

  • whether an increase in freelance, agency or casual working might have an impact on fathers
  • whether workplace attitudes about fatherhood need to be challenged
  • if so, what role government, employers and other stakeholders can play in overcoming them

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The government forecasts that between only 2% and 8% of eligible fathers will take up Shared Parental Leave, a flagship policy introduced in 2015.

Ms Miller said: “Many fathers want to be just as involved in their children’s lives as mothers do, which is good for children too.”

But she said there were “significant questions about whether culture at work has changed enough” to enable the shared leave policy to be effective.

And she added: “We need to find out what we can learn from other countries.”

Among those giving evidence at the inquiry will be Sarah Jackson, chief executive officer of Working Families. The campaign group authored the Modern Families Index and helps employers create workplaces that encourage work-life balance.

She will be joined by the Centre for Social Justice’s Edward Davies, Family Initiative’s Duncan Fisher, and Dr Tina Miller, a specialist in family lives and gender at Oxford Brookes University.

Working fathers will also be detailing their experiences during sessions after Easter.

Are you a father who has asked for more flexible working hours to be more involved in the care of your children? Or have you been unable to ask your employer for fear of damaging your career? Share your views and experiences by emailing .

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