Fathers working in City shun paternity leave

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One in three fathers who work in the City took no paternity leave or failed to take their full two-week entitlement,shows new research.

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The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will speak at the launch of Cityfathers

According to the survey of 750 fathers working in the City of London, almost a third have ruled out taking advantage of new shared parental leave, coming into force next April, while one in five said they would like to work more flexibly but were too afraid to ask in case it harmed their careers.

The research has been conducted by Cityfathers, a new support group for working fathers in the City, being launched today by sister organisation Citymothers.

Speaking at the launch, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will argue that too many companies still have an ‘Edwardian view of work, which holds back families working hard to juggle their responsibilities at home and work.

He will say, ‘For decades, our parental leave system has been based on the assumption that it’s dad who goes out to work while mum cares for the kids - giving fathers two weeks off when your baby is first born and mothers up to a year.

‘But what about those households where the woman is the main earner? Or the families where a working father just wants to spend more time with his children, or both parents want to do their bit at home without sacrificing their careers?

‘In many ways, the system still treats these families as the exception not the norm.’

Mr Clegg will go on to highlight how he has ‘fought to drag clapped-out rules into the 21st century’, including the introduction of childcare subsidies and shared parental leave.

He will also argue that there is a need for a culture change across British industry to tackle the ‘hidden prejudices’, which still limit the choices of many men and women, and create the same equal opportunities for both sexes to care as well as earn.

He will say, ‘We need to encourage more boys to see the value of building a career in the caring professions. For too long, these kinds of jobs - in childcare, early years’ education and social care - have typically been seen as the preserve of women.

‘If we’re to do it properly, then we also need to challenge the ways in which many fathers are still pushed to see themselves as a breadwinner first and carer second.

'Whether it’s by a manager’s raised eyebrow when you ask for some family time off. Or your friends’ surprise when you say you’d like to be a stay at home parent if you could. Or your own ingrained fear that, if you choose to work more flexibly, you’ll find your career stuck in the slow lane and your peers overtaking you.’

Commenting on the launch of Cityfathers, Oliver Black, director of myfamilycare.co.uk, said, ‘Cityfathers is a great initiative and supports our Being a Dad resources and webinars. In our view the debate about successfully combining work and family isn’t just about mothers, it’s about families. Working mothers and fathers have so much in common. We’ll begin to solve a lot of issues and barriers for working mothers in the workplace by helping and recognising working fathers too.’

Adrienne Burgess, chief executive and head of research at the Fatherhood Institute, said, 'Nick Clegg is right that we need a shift in employers’ attitudes about men and women as caregivers as well as earners. But on its own, the Government’s plans for shared parental leave won’t bring this about. We need to ‘normalise’ men taking substantial time off work when they become fathers, and that needs a much more radical parenting leave system fit for the 21st century.’

Jo Eccles, business adviser at the Forum of Private Business, has warned that the changes to parental leave in April 2015 are something that business owners should take seriously.

She said, 'The debate over whether the changes will go some way to challenging ‘Edwardian' attitudes towards childcare responsibilities will continue. However, it is essential that employers do not take their responsibilities lightly and make sure they are fully up to speed with the key changes and how they will need to handle these requests.'