Facts about working dads

15 April 2005

The EOC briefing ‘Facts about Dads’ brings together a short summary of statistics and research findings about fathers and employment, their changing role within the family and how changing expectations require new, more flexible approaches to working practices. The EOC wants to see caring roles shared, so that women and men share responsibility for work at home, and wider society and employers support people who look after their children or relatives and go out to work, making it possible to balance both and enjoy life. The EOC has commissioned several research reports into fathers and employment, and these can be downloaded at the bottom of this article.

This briefing draws on the findings of two EOC research reports and other sources to present some of the key facts about fathers’ employment patterns, their changing role within the family and how changing expectations require new, more flexible approaches to working practices.

Working long hours

Fathers are more likely to be employed, and to work longer hours, than men without dependant children.

  • 4.6 million male employees in Great Britain have dependent children – over a third of all male employees.1 
  • 89% of fathers are in employment compared with 74% of men without dependant children. 
  • Fathers are less likely to work part-time (4%) than men without children (9%), unlike mothers, who are more likely to work part-time (60%) than women without children (32%).1 
  • UK fathers work the longest hours in Europe – an average 46.9 hours per week, compared with 45.5 hours in Portugal, 41.5 hours in Germany, 40 hours in France and 35.5 hours in France.2
  • Around one in eight fathers in Great Britain work excessively long hours of 60 hours or more, and almost 40% of fathers work 48 hours or more a week.2
  • While 80% of fathers and mothers are satisfied with their working hours, satisfaction levels drop to 60% for men working more than 48 hours a week and to 50% for those working more than 60 hours a week.3
  • Fathers working more than 50 hours a week spend less time looking after children than fathers working shorter hours.2

Spending more time with children

Younger men’s aspirations are different to previous generations.

  • Fathers are spending more time with their children: in the late 1990s, fathers of children under 5 were spending an average two hours a day on child-related activities, compared to less than a quarter of an hour per day in the mid 1970s.2
  • Fathers’ time spent with their children accounts for one third of total parental childcare time.2
  • Where mothers work, one third cite fathers as the main child carer while they are at work.2
  • Some fathers sacrifice their own career ambitions in order to spend more time with their children at a certain point in their lives.4

"The value of the father as a child carer is vastly underrated. I do spend quite a lot of time with him, and I think I am equally capable as his mother at looking after him." Father of 5-year-old child, working in the public sector.5

Gender pay gap makes the problem worse

The fact that men’s earnings are generally a higher proportion of the family income than women’s can limit the time men are able to spend with their children. Different patterns emerge where women earn more. 

  • Women’s hourly earnings from full-time work are 19% less than men in full-time work – and women’s earnings from part-time work are 41% less than men’s for full-timework.1
  • Women’s lower pay levels means that it is women in the main who reduce working hours after children are born, reinforcing traditional gender roles in many families. 
  • Men are more closely involved in looking after children where the mother earns more than they do.2
  • Women earn the same as, or more than their partner in a quarter of couples where both partners are working 16+ hours per week in 1996/97.6

Father-friendly employment

Many employers still see flexible working or family-friendly working policies as something for women. 

  • Male-dominated workplaces, especially in traditional craft industries and occupations are less likely to offer flexible working arrangements than other employers.4
  • Fathers often feel discouraged by workplace norms and culture from taking time off work for family, or expressing a wish for flexible work.4
  • Father’s expectations about whether they would have access to work life balance policies are lower than for mothers.2

"I think it’s probably tougher for fathers because the sort of impression you get is that women are the people who go and take the kids to the doctor’s, they pick them up from school. The mothers have to be more flexible than the fathers in doing that. So there’s more pressure for the father to stay in the job, stay there and keep on working." Private sector, HR Manager.5

The lack of opportunity for fathers to use flexible work practices to look after children is worrying, as children whose fathers have been actively involved in their lives have better outcomes2, including: 

  • higher educational achievements 
  • more satisfactory relationships in adult life 
  • protection from mental health problems 
  • less likelihood of being in trouble with the police.
  • Early involvement of father with child is associated with continuing involvement with that child through childhood and adolescence.2

The key thing that fathers request is flexibility and understanding from employers – even limited flexibility can allow many fathers to play a more active role with children such as attending sports days, having time off for family emergencies or for hospital appointments.5


"…. if I could have, even if it was one day a week, where I was out of here at 4pm to be home by 5pm, then I think that would be great." Father of child aged one, employed in the private sector.5

1 EOC (2003) Facts about women and men in Great Britain 2003. Manchester: EOC.
2 O’Brien,M & Shemilt,I (2003) Working fathers: earning and caring. Manchester: EOC
3 Worklife Balance Survey 2000 (as quoted in Working Fathers: Earning and Caring, see ref 2 above)
4 Dex, S (2003) Families and work in the twenty-first century. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation
5 Hatter, W et.al, (2002) Dads on Dads: Needs and Expectations at Home and at Work. Manchester: EOC
6 Pullinger, J & Summerfield C (eds) (1998) Social Focus on women and men. London: The Stationery Office

EOC Parental Care and Employment in Early Childhood
EOC Working fathers: earning and caring
EOC Dads on dads: needs and expectations at home and at work
EOC Fathers and the modern family
EOC State of the modern family
EOC 21st century dads
EOC Fathers: balancing work and family
EOC: Facts about dads today