From education to employment

Research reveals new fathers less likely to take time off

A report by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) at Bristol University has found that becoming a father does little to men’s working patterns.

Sociologist Dr Esther Dermott, who conducted the research, concluded that despite temporary cutbacks in working hours just after their child’s birth, there is no evidence that new fathers are adopting a “female model” of parenthood with part-time work and high levels of childcare.

“It seems that fathers don”t want to work fewer hours,” says Esther Dermott. “What professional men value most about their jobs is their ability to control their working hours so that they can leave early to go to school functions or parents” meetings ““ and this flexibility was also what other men most wanted.”

“Fatherhood is not a good predictor of the number of hours men work once other variables are taken into account. Hours of work are significantly related to age, form of economic activity, occupation, earnings and partner’s working-time.”

The research was based on statistical analysis of two existing quantitative datasets – the British Household Panel Study and the National Child Development Survey. The focus was specifically on men who live with their dependent children. Further findings suggest that the focus on fatherhood as an influence of men’s employment has been overplayed; fathers do not have shorter working hours than non-fathers, nor do they see this as a problem.

Analysis of the data found that around 25% of men in the study wanted to work fewer hours, and less than 1% of men wanted to increase them. The rest wanted to keep things as they were. These preferences did not change when the men became fathers.

The research report, entitled “The Effect of Fatherhood on Men’s Patterns of Employment”, will have implications for future efforts to support better work-life balance among parents. It suggests that recent policies may simply not be what fathers want. Promoting employee-controlled forms of flexibility and offering pay-related paternity leave may prove more popular, the report says.

In summary, the report negates the theory that fathers in the modern day are taking longer paternity leaves or work hour cuts than their forebears. Whilst understandably taking a short time off directly after their child’s birth, most men simply want to return to work and continue as they were.

Paul Keely.

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