The motherhood penalty—the price women pay in lifetime income and job status after they have children—is a significant challenge when it comes to achieving gender equality in the workplace, and research in the UK last year found that it was a key contributor to the gender pay gap. This week, another UK study came out suggesting that fathers who take time away from work to care for children or make more room for family through flexible work arrangements could end up paying a similar “fatherhood penalty,” Forbes contributor Dina Medland explains:
The 2017 Modern Families Index, published today by work-life charity Working Families and Bright Horizons, captures a broad and also a painful picture – of fathers wanting to take an active part in childcare and of workplaces failing to adapt and support their aspirations.
Family, it says from its research, is “the highest priority for fathers.” Providing a snapshot into the lives of working families from across the U.K., the Index was completed by 2,750 parents across the country in 2016. For example, a quarter of the fathers that took part in the study said they dropped their children at school or nursery every day; with just over a quarter (26%) collecting them more than half the time.
The report says that seven out of 10 fathers work flexibly to fulfill their caring responsibilities. However, fathers say they work longer hours because this is the only way to deal with their workload and that being seen to do long hours is important where they work. Tellingly, it suggests: “twice the number of fathers compared to mothers believe that flexible workers are viewed as less committed and that working flexibly will have a negative impact on their career.”
This is not the first time British men have expressed anxiety about being penalized at work for taking on more active roles as fathers. In late 2015, a survey found that men in the UK were neglecting to take advantage of the expanded parental leave options being offered by their employers out of fear that doing so would be frowned upon or would limit the progress of their careers. This stigma against paternity leave may be to blame for the slow take-up of the country’s Shared Parental Leave policy, which allows new mothers (or “lead parents” in same-sex couples) a year of leave to divide between themselves and their partners in any proportion they choose.