Fathers are struggling to balance work and family commitments – ‘throwing sickies’ and lying to their bosses when under pressure.
That’s according to the 2015 Modern Families Index, published by Working Families and Bright Horizons. A survey of over 1,000 UK families, it claims 36% of working fathers have faked illness so they can meet family obligations such as school pick-ups, childcare breakdowns and even birthday parties. It adds that 44% of working fathers have lied to their employer about their family for various reasons, concealing the true extent of family commitments or problems at home.
This is despite increasing government initiatives to encourage flexibility, such as the extension of right to request legislation and the upcoming introduction of shared parental leave, and the growing participation of fathers in family life. Of those surveyed, 53% of working fathers said they dropped the children off at school some or most of the time. Among younger working fathers, 68% regularly drop their children off at school, compared with 61% of mothers in the 16-35 age group.
The report called on employers to do more to help their workforce, with almost a third (31%) of working parents saying work and family were both out of balance and the demands of both were not reconcilable. In addition, 25% of working parents said they would take a pay cut to reduce their hours.
Carole Edmond, managing director of Bright Horizons, said: “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.”
This is making fathers resentful, with 31% saying they resent their employer, compared with 24% of mothers. This trend is particularly pronounced among younger fathers.
Further, the report said the expectation is still that mothers will be the first port of call if there is a childcare issue and that this attitude permeates the workplace, with mothers and fathers agreeing it is more acceptable for women to have their work disrupted than men for this reason.
The report added that an increasing number of managers see work life balance as an issue for employees to handle: 71% believed this in 2011, compared with 56% in 2004. In the study, working parents revealed that the amount of time they need to spend at work leads them to make unhealthy choices – 36% said they eat unhealthy food often or all the time, 41% fail to take enough exercise and 33% rely on ready meals because they don’t have time to cook. Another source of stress for working mothers and fathers is their own parents – 40% worry that caring for their own parents will become a reality within 10 years.
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: “Workplace culture is 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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