Swedish Photographer raises profile of dads on parental leave

What does it take to get UK society to wake up to the need for today’s fathers to take active roles in both being a parent and a professional?

What do we need to do to shift organisational cultures to embrace mums and dads taking leave to care for their families?

Would a showcase of photos showing fathers at home, spending time with children and on household tasks help shift our outdated notions that this is mothers’ work only?

Swedish photographer Johan Bavman, exhibits his photos of men caring for children (warts and all), in order to role-model Swedish dads on parental leave.  3 months of Sweden’s paid parental leave is allocated to dads, so if they don’t take it, the family loses it – which is largely why their take up rate is 77% versus the UK’s current rate of 1%.

Is it just about the pay though?  This is clearly one of the main reasons why UK dads aren’t taking the leave they are entitled to.  However, in our blog of April last year, we realised that in addition to pay, lack of understanding around leave entitlements, worry about the impact at work, societal pressure, as well as mothers not wanting to share leave were all reasons why men in the UK aren’t taking up more leave.

David Willans, @davidwillans, our facilitator for corporate dads’ events, shares his 3 top ways of encouraging a more father-friendly approach to work in the UK:

The first is change your policies. The Sweden exhibit shows what's possible, at the moment UK paternity policies are rigid. Two weeks, taken in a block. Changing this, even if it's to make it more flexible is a good start so men can choose to spread their two weeks out. Giving more paid leave is another obvious way.

The second is to create more flexibility at work so men don't have to miss bedtimes and breakfast times with their kids. Trust your team to get the work done and give them the responsibility for deciding when and where. Your trust will be rewarded.

Finally, the leaders have to be a role model. Make it clear how important family is to you, talk to your team about theirs and help them overcome the challenges they face in creating the right balance. How the leaders behave sets the tone for everyone else, so the change must start at the top.

Bavman’s photo-approach is another great way of bringing dads at home onto our agenda:  if we all get more used to seeing the reality of dads at home, with children, as well as at work, it will become more acceptable and easier for our working dads to take time off and to encourage organisations to take parental-pay seriously….. eventually.

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