Being a father has little effect on men’s working patterns, in spite of the fact that they cut back their working hours for a short time after a child is born, according to research.
A study for the Economic and Social Research Council by Bristol University said there was no evidence that new fathers adopted the ‘female model’ of parenthood, with part-time work and high levels of childcare.
Dr Esther Dermott, who conducted the research, said the findings suggested that current policies to encourage work-life balance don’t take account of how fathers want to adapt their routines to fit in with family life.
“It seems that fathers don’t want to work fewer hours. 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,” she said.
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.
Data analysis showed that about one-quarter of men wanted to work fewer hours: less than 1% wanted to increase their hours and the remainder wished to maintain the status quo. These preferences did not change when the men became fathers.
The research has implications for future measures 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 said.