Fathers are increasingly defying social stigmas and going part-time at work not because they can’t find a full-time job, but in order to help raise their children, a new study has found.
Many fathers worry that if they do opt to work part-time, they will be seen as weaker for failing to be the main breadwinner.
The most common reasons for fathers choosing to work part-time were: to share in household and family responsibilities (32 per cent); to spend more time with their children (31 per cent); and to achieve a better work/life balance (31 per cent).
Ben D’Alton, who works in technical support for Infinis Energy, in Preston, said he reduced his hours from full-time to three and a half days a week so that he and his wife could achieve a better work/life balance. He admitted: “I am the only staff member who works part-time in my company.”
However, Mr D’Alton said the change had been worthwhile: “Now I feel I have the perfect work-life balance. I never wanted to be a weekend dad, and working part-time, I get to spend time with my wife and children. We have had to cut our living costs certainly, but I see my children growing up and changing every day.”
But while adopting a shorter work week may have benefits for family life, most fathers contemplating a reduction in hours worry about how their peers will perceive the change.
Of fathers who do opt to work part-time, nearly three quarters (70 per cent) worry that society attaches a stigma to the part-time working dad, according to the study. Over half were concerned that they were seen as the “weaker partner” because they had sacrificed their role as the main breadwinner. And just over one in ten (13 per cent) worried about negative perceptions amongst colleagues.
This pressure can be so strong that just over a quarter of fathers surveyed did not take the two weeks paternity leave they are legally entitled to, and a similar number said that their employer did not offer flexitime or part-time contracts.
“With part-dads reporting concerns that society stigmatises dads who work part-time, our report shows UK society still has some way to go,” said Angela Smith, Operations Director, Office Angels, the recruitment consultancy that commissioned the report. “The UK needs to demonstrate that it accepts and supports a more flexible, dynamic workplace where men and women share both work and child care duties,” said Ms Smith.
“Dads are not taking advantage of their paternity leave entitlement, which could be for a number of reasons. They may feel that their workload is too heavy, or their colleagues will disapprove, or they might simply not know about their legal rights to request time off. With government changing legislation so fathers can spend more time with their children – by 2015 parents will be allowed to share the 50 week maternity leave entitlement – we should see more dads taking advantage of their paternity leave entitlement”.
Of the 1,072 working fathers surveyed by Office Angels, 606 were in part-time employment.