Long working hours mean one third of fathers 'miss seeing their children grow up'

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The Independent Online

One third of fathers miss seeing their children grow up because they regularly work 10-hour days, research published today claims.

One third of fathers miss seeing their children grow up because they regularly work 10-hour days, research published today claims.

Fathers in professional and managerial jobs work the longest hours and are least likely to have meals with their children or be involved in their care, the study shows. But a growing number of mothers are also working at evenings and weekends.

The changes are revealed in a report by the National Centre for Social Research, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to coincide with Work-Life Balance Week.

It shows that in most dual-income families, one or both parents now work outside the standard nine-to-five. More than half of employed lone mothers also work atypical hours. Couples who work at unusual times tend to operate a "shift" system of parenting where at least one of them is looking after the children at any time. That was frequently to maximise the time they could spend with the children but a minority said their arrangements arose from a lack of suitable, affordable child care in their area.

The main casualty was the time parents could spend together as a couple, according to the report, co-written by Ivana La Valle. She said: "It cannot be good for children when fathers only see them at weekends because they are going to work before they get up and getting home after they go to bed.

"There is also an impact on the relationship between couples because when they are at home they spend most of their time focused on their children."

The research shows that, across all occupations, one in three fathers regularly exceeds the 48-hour limit set by the European working time directive. More than 40 per cent of fathers start work between 6.30am and 8.30am and 45 per cent work between 5.30pm and 8.30pm. The corresponding figures for mothers at those times are 21 per cent and 25 per cent.

More than half of all fathers work at least one Saturday a month, as do four out of 10 mothers. One-third of fathers work one Sunday a month, as do a quarter of mothers. About one-fifth of mothers and fathers had to work a full weekend each month.

People in professional jobs were more likely to have control over their hours and admitted their working patterns were chosen to suit career aspirations and family needs. But working-class parents were more likely to say their employers gave them no choice in their hours.

A second study published by the foundation shows awareness of flexible working options remains low. Half of the employees in six workplaces did not realise their bosses would be willing to grant flexitime, compassionate leave, carers' leave, shift swapping and voluntary reductions in hours.

But a third survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that 52 per cent of parents believe having children has damaged their careers and 28 per cent of women have chosen to downgrade their jobs.