More dads pushing for flexible work

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  Published on Wednesday, 22 March 2017

More dads pushing for flexible work

Library Home  >  Parenting & Family Life
  Published on Wednesday, 22 March 2017
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Men working part time has become the fastest growing labour sector over the last two years, as an increasing number of dads are pushing for flexible working conditions. There were almost 1.2 million men engaged in part-time work in 2016 as compared to 1.07 million in 2014 – a growth of 11 per cent. And the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports that currently around 30 per cent of dads are working flexible hours to care for young children, compared to 16 per cent 20 years ago.

But is this bringing with it a positive change in attitude towards flexible work?

Negative attitudes around part-time work have typically been seen as a women's issue. However, men report that they feel negatively judged by their decision to work part time also. So it seems that, as with women, there still needs to be a significant shift in attitude towards flexible hours, and that employers need to understand that "flexible" doesn't automatically mean 'less'. In fact, a study by Ernst & Young found that those workers with flexible conditions are more productive, finding that women in flexible roles wasted only 11.1 per cent of their time when compared to 14.5 per cent of the rest of the working population.

This trend for flexible working conditions for dads is also being seen across the globe. A recent UK article reported that fathers put child care above job promotion, as found by the results of the 2017 Modern Families Index. This report discovered that nearly 50 per cent of working dads in the UK would like to work less hours to alleviate the effects that work has on their family life, and that many workplaces don’t support better work-life balance. The study found that dads would choose child care needs over a promotion, and 38 per cent would take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance.

Worryingly, in the same report 30 per cent of parents report feeling regularly burnt out, rising to 46 per cent for millennial parents. And more than 50 per cent said that a family-friendly employer would make them happier, more motivated, more productive, and more likely to stay in their role.

The report also found that nearly 20 per cent of dads had workplaces that expected no disruption to work because of child care problems, and twice the number of fathers, compared to mothers, believed that flexibility would have a negative affect on their career because flexible workers are viewed as less committed.

With workplaces still unsupportive of flexible working hours, this raises the question as to whether this trend will spark the rise of a 'fatherhood penalty'? Something that women have struggled with for decades, the 'motherhood penalty' is a phrase that refers to the systematic disadvantages that mothers face – in pay, benefits, perceived competence – when compared to childless women in the workforce.

Bringing about change

Gone are the days when Dad goes to work and Mum stays at home. In the modern world, both mums and dads are parents and both mums and dads are providers. With the role of carer more equally divided, workplaces need to shift their mindset to allow both mums and dads to fulfil their career roles and their desire to care for their children.

12 months ago, now ex-Premier Mike Baird committed to 100 per cent of public service jobs being flexible by 2019 saying, "I can announce that 100 per cent of public service jobs will be flexible by 2019 on the basis of 'if not, why not'.

"We're changing our default position on the 8-6 desk-bound job."

With only 2 per cent of the senior public service jobs currently filled in a flexible capacity, if this happens it will be a promising step towards gender parity.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2021

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