Over the past few years, the government has
taken a leading role in supporting parents and
carers at work. The ‘right to request’ flexible
working, and new paternity, maternity and parental
leave options have been introduced to support
parents at work including fathers. It’s good for
families, good for equality – and good for business
Working fathers and mothers with children aged up to
16 have the right to request flexible working. This
right is also available to parents of disabled
children under 18, and to carers of dependent
adults. More than 10 million employees are eligible.
This ‘right to request’ enables parents and carers
to propose flexible working arrangements. Employers
must seriously consider the request and can only
refuse if they have valid business reasons.
According to the 2008 CBI Employment Trends Survey,
95% of all requests from working parents are agreed.
There’s a growing awareness that enabling staff
to have a better work-life balance is good for
business, as it encourages loyalty and increases job
satisfaction. With the average cost of recruiting a
new member of staff around £6k, it makes sense to
accommodate employees’ aspirations for a manageable
The most forward-looking employers go
beyond the minimum. Rather than have a reactive
policy of responding to requests, they have
developed comprehensive flexible working policies
for all staff, not only parents. Taking a more
strategic approach enables them to maximise the
benefits, such as reducing property and travel
Flexible work for fathers
Flexible working is sometimes portrayed as a
women’s issue, and indeed it is contributing to
women achieving greater equality in sectors such as
financial services and law where they are
under-represented at senior levels. But men are also
seeking a better balance and looking to play a more
significant role in caring for their children.
According to the Equalities and Human Rights
Commission, almost half of fathers have some kind of
flexible working open to them – though only 30% are
actually using it. The most common forms are
flexitime and working from home but options could
also include different start and finish times,
part-time working and compressed hours. The
overwhelming majority (96 %) of fathers who were
working flexibly valued their working arrangements.
Two thirds of all fathers consider the availability
of flexible working to be important when looking for
a new job.
The vast majority (91%) of dads now take time off
around the birth of their child and the majority of
fathers say that taking time off leads to them
taking a greater role in caring for their children.
Currently fathers can take 2 weeks paid paternity
leave at a standard rate of £123.06 per week. Many
also benefit from contractual paternity leave or may
also take annual leave.
Now extensions to paternity leave are on the
horizon. The Government plans to introduce a new
right to Additional Paternity Leave and Pay for
fathers of children due on or after 3 April 2011.
This would give fathers a right to up to six months’
leave which can be taken if the mother returns to
work with maternity leave outstanding. Some of the
leave may be paid if taken during the mother’s
maternity pay period.
Parents also have the right to up to 13 weeks
unpaid Parental Leave to care for a child. In
November last year agreement was reached for a new
European Parental Leave Directive. This will
increase the minimum period of parental leave to
four months. Member States will have two years to
make the changes and the Government will consult on
how to take this forward.
Time off in emergencies
If there is an unexpected emergency involving a
family member, for example a child, partner or
parent falling ill, the right to time off for
dependants means that all employees can take a
reasonable amount of (unpaid) time off to deal with
the emergency and put other care arrangements in
The combination of these leave options and flexible
working provide employees with a range of options to
balance work and family life.