I recently chaired a round table discussion which brought together diversity and recruitment experts from various organisations to debate issues relating to family support.
The debate, hosted by WorkingMums, particularly focused on support for working fathers and highlighted the deeply entrenched cultural barriers that men still face when it comes to working more flexibly and taking time off to support their young families.
For instance, the event heard that many dads were still afraid to even talk to their manager about flexible working, while when men did work flexibly for childcare reasons it was often done ‘under the radar’.
Although some organisations did report pockets of progress as a result of senior leadership buy-in, in some areas attitudes were still fairly old-fashioned, unspoken and difficult to shift.
For instance a big issue remains the fear of the impact of taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL) on a man’s career. There is ‘an element of risk’ involved in being one of the first to take SPL, and cultural change is required to give men the freedom to talk more about their experiences openly and not worry about the impact on their career.
Indeed, the event heard that men needed more role models and senior leaders could have an impact on SPL take-up by ‘normalising’ talking about being a dad at work, and role modelling flexible working even if they could not themselves take SPL because their children were older.
Cause for optimism
However there was cause for optimism at the event with many companies now going to extensive lengths to try and break down these cultural barriers and ensure fathers (as well as mothers) were well supported at work.
For instance Lloyds spoke about their ‘agile hiring’ programme whereby managers who advertise vacancies are challenged if no flexibility is included and have to give a good business rationale to explain why. In this way there is more buy-in for agile working from managers, and potential employees know that they don’t have to have that awkward conversation about flexible working at interview.
The bank also reported huge appetite for dads to be involved in workplace programmes and for parenting information. Lloyds’ network Family Matters which normally gets 300-400 people listening in to lunchtime sessions on parenting issues, gets double that number on issues relating to dads.
I was genuinely surprised at the WorkingMums event at how well developed some of these companies' approaches to equality and diversity were. What struck me was that many large organisations are clearly making great efforts in this whole arena, and that many employers have a lot of catching up to do.
Shared Parental Leave
My own research has been looking at the take-up of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and at how we can increase awareness of the policy which allows employed parents to divide up to 50 weeks of leave between them in their child’s first year.
The debate heard that two years since the policy was introduced employers were taking widely different approaches to SPL. For instance Vodafone said it had an international SPL policy under which dads get the same pay as mums and can have a gradual return to work on full pay. But even despite this take-up of SPL was still low.
Latest figures on SPL take-up nationwide show just how poor the take-up of SPL has been. Figures from HMRC, which were released under a freedom of information request submitted by People Management, revealed that just 7,100 men received SPL in the 2016/17 tax year.
To help increase awareness of SPL I have been working with Ben Kerrane from Lancaster University Management School, and with both Working Families and the Fatherhood Institute, to create a video case book showing the first-hand experiences of parents who have used the scheme.
Key points from the debate:
- Employers need to communicate SPL policy better and enhance it where possible to show they value dads being more involved in childcare
- Drop-in sessions can work because the legislation is complex and everyone’s situation is different
- There is a huge demand for parenting support from dads
- Giving more support to dads improves their engagement and can counter feelings of resentment at the focus on female career progression
- Senior leaders can have an impact by making it ok to talk about being a dad at work and by being a role model, even if they cannot take SPL themselves
Dr Emma Banister is Senior Lecturer in Consumer Research at Alliance MBS
Alliance Manchester Business School and Bruntwood celebrate significant step in campus redevelopment
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
MANCHESTER, 19 JULY, 2017 – Luminaries and leadership figures from Alliance Manchester Business School, Bruntwood and partners gathered on site at the hugely improved campus last night to celebrate a significant step forward in its redevelopment.
Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Birmingham award 1000th MSc in Healthcare Leadership on behalf of NHS Leadership Academy
Friday, July 14, 2017
1,000th Masters in Healthcare Leadership is awarded on its flagship Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA) programme.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Alliance Manchester Business School has been awarded £9.7 million by HEFCE
Monday, July 3, 2017
Calls for private arbitration to avoid delays to transport projects
Monday, July 3, 2017
Alliance Manchester Business School has today been placed 30th in the world in the Financial Times’ Top MBAs for Entrepreneurship ranking.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Developing robust accounting metrics and management accounting systems will be crucial as companies adapt to today’s huge environmental and technological challenges.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
The challenges of running a business today were laid bare during our Vital Topics series this year as we touched on a number of key boardroom issues, Alliance MBS also hosted a number of other lectures through the year on subjects ranging from machine learning to inter-generational tensions.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
By Jonatan Pinkse, Professor of Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Alliance Manchester Business School
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
The full extent of social and economic inequalities across Greater Manchester – and between the city and the rest of the UK - have been laid bare in a major study.