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With the government consultation on parental leave about to closes working dads must seize this opportunity for change
International Men’s Day was fun. And hard work. So a lot like fatherhood really.
A big lesson learned for me was that it’s more interesting and enriching when you engage with it. Again, a lot like parenthood.
In previous years I may have been too quick to spurn International Men’s Day as at best unnecessary and at worst a festival of misogyny. It’s neither. It’s an opportunity.
Lots of men engaged with our content and visited workingdads.co.uk. I hope they (you) are sticking around. We’re an intelligent, useful and supportive space all year round.
Employers are increasingly coming round to the idea that working dads have valid concerns and issues that need to be recognised and addressed. This week we’ve seen Save the Children and fashion brand Burberry announce big new paternity leave policies. They are particularly interesting cases because they show this agenda is spreading from the City and financial firms that seem to have pioneered it. And now companies are looking at International Men’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate positive masculinity and learn how they can help their employees. I attended a stimulating and encouraging panel discussion at the London HQ of consulting firm CapCo. I know Schneider Electric, another of our Top Employers, took the opportunity to start a discussion on men’s health. They got Bupa involved and focussed on raising awareness of cancers that particularly impact men. Good work all round.
But International Men’s Day cannot just be a talking shop.
It counts for nothing if there are no actions to follow.
Firms that focus on men’s health must put in the policies to back that up whether that be laying on private health care or hiring an in-house counsellor or boosting paternity leave. We know that men who spend more time with their baby in their first year as a dad have a better relationship with that child for life, and the knock on effect of that is better mental and physical health.
But there is one step we can all take that could lead to more paternity leave. One week today the government consultation on parental leave ends. We’ve got seven days to make ourselves heard.
And it’s really not hard. Go to the government website here and fill in the form. The government consultation may look a bit daunting but it’s not. Do as much or as little as you want. There is quite a lot of questions and some are a bit odd. You don’t need to answer them all. Just say somewhere on the site that you want men to get more paternity leave, properly funded, perhaps a ring fenced portion of daddy leave. A change in parental leave policy is a panacea that could address many of the problems and struggles facing men, particularly working fathers, today. And the best bit is: there are side effects that make life better for women, children, the economy, basically everyone else too.
There’s one week till the consultation closes, one year till the next International Men’s Day. Engage with the former and by the time of the latter we may have real change to celebrate.