Simon Gregory, managing partner at GPS Return and Yorkshireman, writes about life as a Northern Dad
It’s not easy being a Dad in Yorkshire. It’s not easy being a Dad most places, but in Yorkshire, we have our own set of unique challenges. Flat caps don’t really go with shorts (despite our best efforts), whippets are in short supply and those dry stonewalls don’t build themselves.
Ok, so I might be taking the stereotype too far but like all stereotypes, there is some truth in them. Certain facts can make Yorkshire seem a little behind the times. The gender pay gap is higher in Yorkshire (25%) than the national average (18%) and the amount of companies offering flexible work is also significantly less than the rest of the UK.
The problem is that if there are more families where the men are the breadwinners then it makes less sense for the Dad to become the full-time parent or reduce their hours to become more involved in parenting; and with fewer flexible roles available it means that the number of Dads working flexibly is very low compared to other areas of the UK. So, in this instance, Yorkshire is lower than low.
Add into this our cracking stubborn Yorkshire personality and our general reluctance to do anything that sounds like it costs money and before you know it you have a recipe for absolutely no change at all.
I regularly hear stories from Dads returning to work which have included comments like “see your balls have grown back then” and “can’t your wife cope on her own?”, and from Dads trying to find flexible work “you need to man up and focus on being the breadwinner” and, in true Yorkshire fashion “flexible work is for lasses, not proper lads like you so shut up and get back to work”.
As you can see, it isn’t easy and whilst there are plenty of Dads wanting to become more involved in raising their family, salaries and old-fashioned attitudes are getting in the way. So what can we do to change it?
Act now. We can’t allow a reluctance to adopt new ways of working to delay the implementation of flexible work. For one, it will mean that Yorkshire businesses will lag behind (and this is part of the way you sell it to your business), but the sake of our own health and the wellbeing of our families we need to act now and demand flexible work. Afterall, we don’t want them southerners or folk across the Pennines leading the way do we?
Speak to other Dads. Within your business, your Dad mates that work at other businesses, especially those that have younger kids and see how many will stand with you to make the change happen. As with all change, there will be those who will, those who will watch and those who will walk away, but the more Dads you have standing with you the faster we will make change happen.
Know your rights. Companies are legally obligated to consider a flexible work request regardless of who the request comes from. If there are other people in the business that work flexibly/reduced hours then you know it is something they will consider, but being a guy you will probably have to work harder to get it (don’t get too upset, Mums have it a lot harder than we do in a number of other areas so just get on with it.)
Make a plan. A business plan, outlining the benefits to your team and to the business of you working flexibly. It helps to put yourself in the shoes of the biggest critic and try to answer their concerns before they have a chance to voice them. The more that you can make it sound like it is in the best interests of the business to approve your request the better your chances.
Work bloody hard to make it work. Once approved, everyone is going to be watching you. The critics, the bosses, your colleagues, everyone, and some will jump at the chance to point the finger because you missed an email or a meeting, but it is down to you to show your business that flexibility works. You don’t just owe it to yourself, or indeed the other Dads, but to your family.
These steps all require a bit of effort, but us Yorkshire folk aren’t afraid of hard work are we?
Simon Gregory is managing partner at GPS Return, a Harrogate based recruitment firm specialising in parent returners and flexible working opportunities