How dads in senior positions can set a precedent for healthy work-life balance

HR expert Alan Price outlines how senior managers can be role models for more equal parenting.

Man in white shirt and suit puts encouraging hand on shoulder of employee wearing a shirt


In the corporate relay race, working dads in senior positions are positioned well to pass the baton onto the next generation. With over nine in 10 (92.1%) of UK fathers with dependent children being employed as of 2021, the need for those of us in senior positions to lead by example is illustrated more clearly than ever before.

It can be hard to balance work and your responsibilities as a father, with many of us feeling pulled in opposite directions between the boardroom and our kids’ football field.

Here are some of the most effective ways fathers in leadership roles can lead by example in the workplace.

1. Taking PTO

Unsurprisingly, many workers, including those of us with children, feel compelled to work without ever taking breaks. Less than 40% of UK adults took all of their annual leave in 2022 and 2023.

Interestingly enough, in recent years women are far more likely to use their annual leave than men: 50% vs 28%. While that gap is narrowing, it’s clear the culture, particularly among men, is one of discouraged holiday and shunned family time.

And yet, it doesn’t make any sense to carry on like this. Those of us using our annual  leave report feeling more motivated, more productive, less stressed, and even come to work healthier – with a lower risk of heart disease to boot.

Taking your allotted time off as a father in a senior position encourages a culture where employees feel comfortable doing the same, and helps prioritise family time and personal wellbeing, keeping you fit and mentally healthy as you work.

2. Using flexible working effectively

The demand for flexible working since the pandemic has skyrocketed, with 40% of organisations seeing an increase in requests for flexible working.

Since April 6th 2024, employees now have the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one. And yet, a staggering one in four dads didn’t know they could ask for flexibility at work in the first place.

Another one in five didn’t ask for flexibility because they were concerned about their employers’ reactions, and fathers on incomes below £40,000 were even less likely to make a request for similar reasons.

In 2024, the traditional 9-5 workday is an outdated benchmark for productivity. Likewise, it’s unfair for mums to disproportionately bear the brunt of caregiving duties, a burden that unfairly impacts their income and career progression. It’s up to us in senior positions to set an example of trust and flexibility for our teams, paving the way for dads to have precious time with their children, and for mums to grow their careers.

3. Leaving on time

Many of us report feeling stressed at work, with nearly a quarter of UK adults stating that work, in general, causes them stress. In particular, 14% of us cite work hours as a stress factor. Again, evidence suggests that those of us staying behind at the office to work longer hours don’t necessarily work better, but many of us feel pressured to stay past our contracted hours regardless.

With one in five of us needing to take time off due to this very same workplace stress, the role of employed dads is crucial. Dads in senior positions can lead by example by leaving on time and spotlighting the importance of switching off from work, making a powerful statement that supports the wellbeing of the workforce and underscores the importance of family time.

4. Championing equitable parental leave policies

Shared Parental Leave has been present in the UK since 2015, a policy which allows parents of children born or adopted to share parental leave. And yet, the charity Maternity Action estimates the take-up since then has been between just 3 and 4%.

This isn’t to say that men don’t want to take shared leave. In fact, a survey by Fertility Family suggests a demand for it. The survey instead highlights the invisible barriers to fathers from taking parental leave, such as:

 One in six felt that management reduced their career opportunities after saying they planned to take parental leave, with nearly double the number of male employees feeling their career opportunities were reduced compared to women
 59% of men still find paternity leave insufficient, despite the shared leave policy
More than 62% of fathers would take more time off if the statutory pay rate was increased

It’s the role of senior leaders to set an example by advocating for policies that support fathers taking an active role in early childcare. This not only benefits the families, but helps to close the gender pay gap and improve workplace diversity by helping mothers who historically have disproportionately cared for children.

Closing thoughts

Working dads in senior positions have a pivotal role in shaping the future of work. They can lead by example in four key areas: taking paid time off to demonstrate the importance of rest, utilising flexible working arrangements to help accommodate family needs, leaving on time to reduce stress and unhealthy expectations and advocating for more equitable parental leave measures to help support gender equality.

By being the champions of measures that help level the playing field for both mothers and fathers, dads in senior positions can help set a precedent that encourages a healthier, more inclusive workplace culture.

Leading from the front, dads can alleviate the caregiving burden on mothers and pave the way for a more balanced and fulfilling professional and personal life for employees up and down the corporate ladder.

*Alan Price is CEO at BrightHR and father to two young boys. He writes for on parental leave.

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