Facing the ‘fatherhood forfeit’

A Working Families’ seminar brought together different employers to talk about some of the prejudice working dads face at work.

fatherhood work prejudice


A university researcher has put a name to the difficulties working dads face when speaking to their employers about participating more fully in the parenting process.

Dr Jasmine Kelland, Lecturer in Human Resource Management at University of Plymouth was at a Flex for Fathers event organised by Working Families to discuss her new book From Caregiving Fathers In The Workplace: Organisational Experiences and the Fatherhood Forfeit.

She spoke in a seminar alongside Elliott Rae of Music. Football. Fatherhood, as well as Mike Lattimer, Managing Director of SF Recruitment and Lt Col Tony Frank, Personnel Directorate of the British Army.

“We’ve taken some quite bold steps within our industry, let alone within our business and our productivity and profit has increased, as well as the wellbeing for all the staff,” said Lattimer, about how his company has focused on working parents. “You can have profit and a purpose and still have an environment that mothers, fathers, caregivers can thrive in.”

The research in Kelland’s book identified four main elements of the fatherhood forfeit. There was less workplace support, social mistreatment (that is being judged negatively by their peers), dads are less likely to obtain a role that allows them to carry out caregiving and then there’s always the sense of them being secondary to Mum.

Lt Col Frank said, “Do we experience the fatherhood forfeit? Yes – and I think we’ll continue to do so. But we’re getting better and the most important thing that gets after it is good leadership and we need to continue that.”

Rae added how important good management is. “It starts from the top,” he said. “And having visible role models is so powerful and sets the tone for the rest of the organisation.”

Lattimer revealed that 10 years ago, he definitely suffered from the fatherhood forfeit, not just from his bosses, but from everyone in the office. When he started asking for time off to attend scans for his first child, the forfeit started.

However, he admitted that recently he had to go and pick up his six-year-old because the child was ill and there wasn’t a comment made about it. In fact, when he came into the office the next morning, his co-workers wondered why he was in because his wife was away working and they thought he’d be looking after his son.

Kelland explained that she had outlined recommendations to offset the forfeit in her book, which included equalising organisational policy around parenting, training for management, fatherhood forums, zero tolerance on social mistreatment, reviewing unconscious bias training and advertising all roles as flexible from day one.

Read more:

Why returning after paternity doesn’t have to be a struggle

Bright Horizons signs up for Mindful Business Charter

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