LETTER : Fathers' long hours the real risk to family

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Sir: BBC Panorama's "Missing Mum" will have caused anxiety and guilt among working parents across the country ("Scaring mothers? It's Panorama's bit of fun", 4 February). Here again was a programme based on research that undermines working mothers, rather than addressing the real issue that keeps both mothers and fathers away from their children - long working hours.

Britain has the longest working hours in Europe. A recent survey has suggested that it is the long hours worked by many fathers, rather than mothers, that is the greatest risk to the family. Fifteen per cent of fathers do not see their children except at weekends, and more than 50 per cent of working fathers spend less than five minutes a day with their child one-to-one.

If both working mothers and fathers are to have the opportunity to spend more time with their children, society needs to value parenting more. Dismantling the current long-hours culture will allow parents longer with their children, as would a commitment to implement the 48-hour directive and the European Social Chapter. Employers must be encouraged to offer flexible working practices and acknowledge the value of keeping motivated staff.

SARAH JACKSON

Joint Chief Executive

Parents at Work

London EC2

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