‘I Was Denied Paid Paternity Leave When My Baby Was Intensive Care – So I’m Not Surprised That Millennial Dads Are Facing Workplace Discrimination’

A study has found that firms aren't offering flexible working to dads juggling childcare. Writer Richard Goodwin takes a look at why

Millennial dads

by Richard Goodwin |
Updated on

Turns out there's more to being a Millennial Dad than growing a beard and calling your child ‘mate’. Last week, a report revealed that today’s dads are increasingly hands-on at home, but find resistance from employers when we try to tip the old work/life balance in the direction of ‘life’.

The new survey of 2,000 British men aged 24 to 40 found nearly nine in 10 (87%) are now involved in ‘day-to-day’ parenting (cooking, collecting, wiping, etc). So no surprise, then, that nearly two-thirds (63%) had requested a change to their working patterns since becoming a father, such as a day working from home each week. But not many were successful. Of the 40% who had requested a change in working hours, nearly half (44%) had been turned down. And 45% of working fathers experienced ‘tension’ from their employers as a result of their decision to take responsibility for their children.

‘What struck me was the depth of feeling when we sat down and talked to these men,’ says Han-Son Lee, founder of parenting website DaddiLife, which produced the report in collaboration with Deloitte. ‘Men are going through their own version of what mothers went through a generation ago when they entered the workplace.’ None of this will come as a surprise to any man who has told their boss that they have to be out of the office for an important client meeting when, in fact, that client is a soiled nappy and the venue is a disabled loo in a soft-play centre.

All of my dad mates admit to lying to their bosses to justify being away from work – one even had to spell out the legislation to his HR department before he was allowed shared parental leave – and I’ve heard of men (usually bankers) who won’t even take up parental leave because of the ‘stigma’. Only last week, Dustin Lance Black, husband of Olympic diver Tom Daley, blasted swimming competition organisers for failing to provide adequate buggy- parking facilities. ‘It’s time to start treating families as other nations do, as assets, not obstacles,’ he tweeted.

As a freelancer, I’m spared pick-up angst, but I still feel I’ve been penalised by editors when I have, for example, cited childcare as a reason I couldn’t just fly to San Francisco at a day’s notice. And the battles with my former employer over paid paternity leave – a flat refusal, after 11 years’ service, when my kid was in intensive care, f*** you very much – would make me think twice about returning to full-time work any time soon. Even those who have managed to extract concessions don’t feel secure. A friend who commutes into London to work for a bank says his bosses were ‘surprisingly accommodating’ when he asked for compressed hours (he now has Mondays off and works from home two days a week). ‘However, rumours are going around that the powers-that-be are looking at whether they really need to pay people London wages when they spend most of their time [working from home] outside of London,’ he says. ‘It feels a bit precarious.’

DaddiLife’s Lee reckons employers need to buck up their ideas to retain talent. ‘We found a third of fathers had left their job since becoming a dad. They all cited flexibility. And a third on top of that were actively looking to leave their job for similar reasons. at’s two-thirds of all fathers!’ But we can’t rely on the benevolence of multinational corporations – or on politicians – to act. ‘It’s sort of on the radar of Parliament,’ says Lee. ‘But like so much that should be being done, it’s sort of slipped o the agenda.’ Clearly, we all need to start working together. See you by the sandpit at 4.30pm – just pretend you have another meeting...

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us