2020 has been a tough year for working dads but our new survey finds that many are taking positives from being forced to work from home
Working dads are set to embrace flexible working on a huge scale as a result of lockdown. The results of our 2020 survey of working dads found four in five say they are now more likely to request flexible or remote working. And three quarters believe their employer is more likely to give their request the green light now.
Previously men have had to deal with a situation in which they are more likely to have a flexible working request refused than a woman is. That has also held women back as it suggests many employers expect working mums to alter their hours but they have a different approach to fathers.
Our survey found that lockdown has been an eye opener for many working dads. One wrote on his form, “Being a dad during lockdown meant I got to see first hand what my wife had been dealing with for a number of years. It allowed me to have a new found appreciation of the challenges she faced.”
The challenges dads have reported this year are likely to be magnified as England enters a second national lockdown. Many reported mental health challenges and financial concerns. But these were balanced against spending more time with their children.
For example one respondent wrote, “Being a dad and husband in lockdown has been challenging. I have spent more time with the family than I have at any point in the last 12 years. But equally very rewarding to share in what is possible during these challenging times.” Another working dad said, “The bond with my son is the strongest it’s ever been. I have become more capable of juggling work/housework/schoolwork.”
68% of respondents are now working from home. But 78% of them either never worked from home or did so only occasionally before the pandemic struck.
Three quarters told us they are doing more childcare now than they were at the start of the year. Just 2% said they are doing less childcare. Only 12% of those in a two parent household said they do more around the house than their other half. 46% said they split things equally. In 42% of homes the mother does most of the childcare and domestic work.
It seems most working dads enjoyed spending time with their families in lockdown. Because the evidence suggests it was a tough time for many with regard to work. Around a third had either had their hours reduced or lost their job altogether. A fifth of working dads fear their job is under imminent threat. That translates into millions of men across the country worried about their work and their ability to support their families. One dad said, “It has been so very hard to look after my family finances and mental wellbeing.” A number of others described this year as the most challenging period of their working lives.
The picture seems even more grim for the self employed. 80% of freelancers said they’d had no financial help this year. 10% had turned to state benefits for support. That suggests the government Self Employment Income Support Scheme, currently attracting criticism for the level of earnings replacement promised going forward, is not going far enough.
Working dads cited balancing work and childcare as the biggest challenge through lockdown. 27% pointed to struggling family finances. A further 11% said work demands were their biggest headache.
Dads turned to a range of remedies to balance work and family life. Nearly three quarters flexed their hours to fit around childcare and homeschooling. Two in five had to use annual leave to make things work and 20% reduced their hours. Nearly one in 10 took advantage of their right to take unpaid parental leave. However that inevitably will have hit family finances. Six per cent gave up work altogether.
However many reported upsides. One said, “I loved working from home, got to know my children better, appreciated the huge amount my wife does for the children and we grew closer as a family.” Others said they had more time for hobbies such as gardening and painting because they no longer lose part of their day to the commute. A couple of dads said they were able to support their partners to start a new business because they were around more to share childcare.
Childcare is a big wish for the future, particularly with another lockdown underway. A fifth of working dads said formal childcare support would be the most helpful factor to smooth lockdown. A further 27% cited informal childcare via friends and family. A quarter said financial support was most important.