More dads on leave – how can HR help?

Last month, Alexis Ohanian, who is CEO of Reddit and also married to world top 10 tennis player Serena Williams, talked about his role as a new father in the New York Times.  He said that ‘no dad should feel forced to wholly prioritize work over family at a time as important as the arrival of a new baby.’

Of course Alexis is right.  However, we are acutely aware of the various barriers which stand in the way of the regular working dad in the UK (finances, culture, traditional stereotyping to name a few).

A little closer to home, this summer I spent some time with 2 UK ‘dads on leave’ – Andreas and Mark, old school friends, who now get together with their children.

Andreas says:

“After 15 years climbing the corporate ladder I took time out to help look after our baby daughter. 

I’ve really enjoyed spending every day with our 6-month old, Isabella, and feel that we’ve developed a strong bond. That wouldn’t have been possible working 12-hour days in the City. 

While stigma still remains in the male corporate world about taking such a decision, it’s important that modern men choose to lead by example.

So, my message to others facing a similar decision (to continue working post birth or to take some time out) is - think hard about what you’ll miss: time really is the most precious commodity.”

Mark, who is a teacher, is pictured with his 2 girls and takes charge of childcare during school holidays whilst his wife works.

It’s time to challenge ourselves once more - are we really doing all we can as members of the HR community to influence the importance of dads at work feeling (and being) able to take time out?

Checklist for HR to encourage more dads to take leave:

Here are some things that every HR team should be doing as standard:

  • Ensure all the family policies are easy to find, easy to read and well communicated
  • Ensure you have a designated HR person who any new dad can contact, meet or talk to personally
  • Set up an internal parent’s network – and ensure dads, not just mums, are invited
  • Campaign for equal family-related leave pay and for more dads to take Shared Parental Leave
  • Profile those dads who are already taking leave and encourage them to talk about the benefits of their experiences
  • Consider mentoring, lunch and learns or coaching through change – many of these are becoming the norm in organisations now

Benefits

Better work/family balance leads to short-term productivity and long-term loyalty and health.  Encouraging all staff to find opportunities to work flexibly creates an agile workplace for the future.

Who doesn’t have agile working, productivity and health & wellbeing on their HR priority list for 2020?

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