Referring to the 58 percent increase in childcare undertaken by men during the Covid-19 pandemic, as reported by the Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK’s fatherhood think tank is calling on the Government and employers to encourage more home working and shorter hours for fathers in the run-up to Fathers’ Day this Sunday (21 June).
Chair of the Fatherhood Institute, Jack O’Sullivan, said, ‘Men’s working hours have fallen by 11 percent – a drop of 1 hour and 37 minutes per day including travelling time – on average, during lockdown, according to the ONS data. This suggests that men could retain their lockdown level of increased childcare if they gained about half a day through commuting less and working more from home, and if they also cut a couple of hours from their working week.
‘The exciting part of this is that 11 percent represents a small cut in working hours. UK fathers work an average of 43 hours a week; the highest figures in Europe. If men could work more from home and commute less and reduce their hours by 11 percent post-lockdown, there would be multiple benefits for children; mothers and fathers going forward,’ he told Nursery World.
In countries such as Iceland, which have taken important steps to develop father-friendly jobs, men provide more childcare and the pay gap between women and men is much narrower than in Britain.
Adrienne Burgess, co-chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute, said, ‘The Government’s figures show that fathers, given shorter hours and more homeworking, dramatically increase their contribution to childcare. It’s time to end workplace discrimination against involved fatherhood so that dads can play their part as they wish to – and will do.’
The Fatherhood Institute has set out a four-point plan for UK Governments and employers to maintain this shift and overcome the well-documented barriers that work normally presents to men who want to care for their children:
- Employers should include in all job specifications, details of options for flexibility around hours and home working.
- In the workplace, employers should recognise men, as well as women, as parents and reassure them of the value that is placed on that role.
- There should be training at all levels of management to address the unconscious bias that managers display against male employees who have needs around care taking.
- The Government should reinstate the requirement for companies to report on how they are addressing the gender pay gap and work towards, as in Iceland, financially penalising companies that fail to comply.
Mark Gatto, a university researcher who has been primary caregiver for his 15 month old child since lockdown started, said, ‘As a relatively new father, trying to balance work and childcare has been a steep learning curve, but this time has given me time to bond that I would never have had. Spending extended time with my child has reinforced how much I want to stay fully involved in their life and get the balance right as a family beyond the lockdown.’
The Fatherhood Institute, in partnership with BritainThinks, is currently undertaking the ‘Daddy’s Home’ survey of 2,000 fathers about their experiences during lockdown. The ‘Daddy’s Home’ study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, will be published later in the summer.
Coronavirus and how people spent their time under lockdown: 28 March to 26 April 2020 published by the Office for National Statistics.