Fathers forced to take sickies to make time for family life

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More than a third of fathers have faked illness in order to meet family commitments, a survey reveals.

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Employers' demands are putting increasing pressure on working families

Although many fathers provide back-up childcare – with more than half regularly dropping children at school and nursery - more than four in ten of them admitted that they have lied to their employer about their family commitments, and a similar number said they would be nervous about asking their employer to cut their hours.

However, despite the increasing involvement of fathers, there is an expectation among employers that mothers are ‘on call’, not fathers: 97 per cent of working mothers said that their child’s school or nursery would ring them rather than their partner.

The extent to which parents struggle to balance family and working life is revealed in the 2015 Modern Families Index, which will be launched in Westminster today.

The findings highlight a growing disconnect between work and family life. Parents are having to work longer hours 'to get the job done', while a quarter of working parents would take a paycut or reduce their hours.

Just under a third of parents believe that the demands of work and family were irreconcilable.

One in three working parents do not work flexibly and more than two-thirds said they were concerned about using either too little or two much childcare.

Three-quarters of parents said they used their paid annual leave to help cover childcare.

The report by Bright Horizons Family Solutions and Working Families questioned more than 1,000 parents about their working lives and calls for a shift in attitude from employers.

'Family is the highest priority for parents, while work is lower,' it says. 'Policy makers and employers should recognise this reality: working with the grain of parents’ values is likely to create happier, more effective employees. Practices like long hours and presenteeism, although believed to be productive, may have negative effects if they conflict with values about family life.'

Employers should also play more of a role in providing childcare, it adds.

Ahead of the report’s launch, Carole Edmond, managing director of Bright Horizons, said, ‘The 2015 Modern Families Index shows that today’s generation of working fathers have a stronger-than-ever desire to be involved with their children and families.

‘However, these increased expectations often bump up against working commitments, leading to stress and unhealthy lifestyles as they try to cram everything in.’

Citing characters from the popular television series 'Modern Family' and 'Outnumbered', she said these fathers were the ‘Phil Dunphys and Pete Brockmans, who sometimes risked getting fired in order to spend time with their children and relatives.’

Long working hours also lead to unhealthy lifestyles, according to the survey, with more than a third of parents saying they ate unhealthily often or all the time, and a similar proportion not having enough time to cook. Caring for elderly relatives was an added strain.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said, ‘The study underlines the value to mothers and fathers of dependable childcare, which is often the hidden glue helping to hold busy family lives together. For mothers in particular, dependable childcare is crucial to advancing their careers. Workplace culture is also very important to working families, and we strongly encourage employers to work with the grain of family life, so that parents can give of their best at work and at home.’

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