Half of fathers do not take paternity leave, study says

It is a Catch-22 situation facing every modern father: how to spend more time with children during their formative years while also providing for the family's long-term financial security.

On this issue, society has frequently failed fathers by either forcing them to give up work and become house husbands or demand that they spend long hours in the office bringing home the bacon. Those men who try to reconcile the two roles end up pleasing neither the family nor the boss, and, in the worst cases, suffer stress and even marital breakdown.

A report published today suggests that more men are giving up the battle for a better work-life balance. Almost half of fathers fail to take up their right to two weeks' paternity leave.

Research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission also reveals that two out of five men are afraid to ask for flexible working arrangements because they think it would harm their career prospects. They fear their commitment to their job would be questioned and it would negatively affect their chance of promotion.

"While there have been huge changes in women's participation in employment over the last 30 years, men's contribution to childcare has not increased at the same rate," say the authors of the report. "In most cases, women continue to shoulder the responsibility for childcare, even in households where both parents work full-time."

Fathers told the researchers they wanted to take a more active role in caring for their children, but two out of five admit that they do not spend enough time with their sons or daughters.

The findings are disheartening for men who harbour dreams of a more enlightened society which will support fathers who don't want to to sacrifice their family lives for their careers.

Professor Jay Belsky, director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birbeck, said that the findings showed both how far society had come but also how far society has to to change. "On the one hand, there have been great changes in fathers' involvement in the family in terms of time invested ... but in terms of who the child goes to first when they need a parent, mothers are still first.

"So if you compare the father of today with the men of 30 years ago there has been something of a revolution, but if you compare today's father with the role of the mother then the changes are much more modest."

Professor Belsky was unsurprised that half of fathers don't take their full allowance of paternity leave.

He said that when paternity leave was first introduced in Sweden, considered by many to be the home of the work-life balance, there was a similarly low take-up.

"What we are talking about is a social expectation," says the professor. "What men may be asking themselves is what their mates and employer will think of them if they take full paternity leave."

Becky Sibert, a policy officer at the charity Families Need Fathers, says that the Government needs to bring in social reforms to help fathers make better choices.

"It is clear that the Government's approach to supporting a balance between work and childcare commitments is outdated," she said.

But this report also shows that legislation is not enough to change society's attitude toward fathers.

Andrea Murray, acting group director of strategy of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "It is clear that today's families require a modern approach to balancing work and childcare commitments."

A working dad: 'Entitlement and reality are different'

*Paul Richard-Douglas, 27, is an insurance analyst based in the City of London. He has worked in the industry for eight years



My partner and I are expecting our first baby in January, so I've recently had my human resources interview to request paternity leave. If you don't give 15 weeks' notice, I believe they can decline your request. I know that I'm entitled to two weeks, but realistically it's at my manager's discretion.

January is a busy time for us, and already I've been asked if I could just take one week, and then have the rest of the time as a day here or there later in the year that won't come out of my holiday entitlement.

I have quite a lot of sympathy for the management, because we've already got one member of the team on maternity leave. If you're at a certain level of seniority, you're needed in the office and there's no way round that. You can't just call up a client and say, "Sorry, everyone's on leave, we'll do it when they get back."

Certainly there's a culture of taking less than you're entitled to. Earlier in the year one of the underwriters took three days off when he had a baby: he won't ever get round to claiming the rest.

There was also quite a famous incident a couple of years ago when a guy went home at six in the evening, his wife went into labour and gave birth during the night. He had a shower and was back in the morning.

Yes, I could demand the full two weeks and there's not much they could do about it, but in reality it doesn't work like that. If no one else does, then you can't either really can you? I'd be looked upon very badly.

I know there's talk at some companies of increasing paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks as they have in other countries, but entitlement and reality are different things. I'm not sure what difference it would actually make.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace