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We brought together dads and employers to talk about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to supporting fathers. Now we’ve published the results.
Employers can take simple steps to make life better for working dads.
The White Paper follows a roundtable event last month hosted by banking group Santander UK. Retaining talent was a key theme of the discussion. A number of dads spoke openly about their experience at work, the obstacles they’d faced and, crucially, the measures that make their lives easier and their work better and more fulfilling.
The findings show employers that want to hang on to their top talent should promote dad networks, be transparent about parental leave policies, plan ahead to have cover if dads need to go on leave suddenly and have strong role models across their organisation.
Employers at the event included Santander UK, Pitney Bowes, Next, Carpetright, Standard Chartered, Bovis and Affinity Water.
They discussed everything from parental leave policy and engagement with dads to establishing a flexible working culture and family support. The aim was to explore shared challenges, discuss best practice and look at what works and how progress can be made as growing numbers of men, particularly younger ones, seek greater input into their family lives.
Colin Woolliscroft, Divisional Managing Director for Santander Business, chaired the event and was one of several dads who spoke passionately about their own experiences and the need for greater awareness of work life balance issues for dads. Colin spoke just before he was due to go on Shared Parental Leave where he will benefit from Santander’s Shared Parental Pay policy which guarantees full pay for all the weeks he wants to take off.
One dad told how his daughter had arrived early and he had not been prepared. He had not done a handover and found himself in tears in the office at midnight doing a handover note while his wife was in labour. Chris Peacock from Cloudbooking spoke movingly about how important his employer’s attitude to homeworking was to him as it enabled him to have precious time to take his children to school – something that made him intensely loyal to his employer. He was, he said, a better dad because he was given that flexibility and he said companies should make more of a noise about the importance of having a happy workforce.
Some employers who took part were at the start of their attempts to embrace a more flexible, supportive approach to dads, while others already offered a lot of flexible working and support networks for dads. However, despite growing evidence of demand from dads, it was clear that there were particular challenges many employers faced in not just developing support for dads, but ensuring uptake.
Key takeaways from the white paper include the need for employers to provide active role models at all levels of the organisation who are ‘noisy’ about the dad agenda, to make information on parental leave policies available both internally and externally in a tone of voice that speaks to dads, using a variety of different channels, and to ensure proactive and continuous communication of parental leave policies and easy accessibility.
Line managers are vital and need to be clear on the benefits of parental leave and flexible working for all and that this is supported from the top of the organisation. They also need support to have conversations with dads about their and the business needs, if possible before dads go on leave and to be aware of the importance of reacting positively to news that an employee is becoming a dad. Dads may be more nervous than mums, given social norms, so need reassurance that the news will not be viewed negatively and that taking leave will not affect their career progression, says the white paper.
In addition to enhancing paternity pay, where possible, employers discussed the need to plan for leave by ensuring, for instance, that there is regular staff mobility so that cover is available. This relieves a large amount of paternal guilt, they said.
Other takeaways include the need to:
*The white paper can be downloaded from the Workingmums.co.uk website here.