Time with Dad

Time with Dad is our campaign to improve support for fathers. Let’s give men the help they need to care for and spend time with their children – and to play their part in supporting their health, learning and development.

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We launched the Time with Dad campaign in summer 2021, inspired by our longstanding commitment to building a society that supports men as actively involved, caring fathers – and by evidence from the Covid-19 lockdowns about the positive benefits that flowed from the extra time dads spent with their children (check out the video for our Nuffield Foundation-funded study, Lockdown Fathers: The untold story).

Time with Dad offers a space for you to find out about and get involved in research, advocacy and campaign actions focused on three key areas:

  • FAMILY SERVICES: We want maternity, health visiting and other family services to routinely and systematically support fathers’ close attachment to their babies, and involve them in supporting their children’s health and development.
  • WORK: We want employers to recognise and support men’s fatherhood – through well-paid and substantial leave in their baby’s first year, and access to flexible and home-based working options wherever possible.
  • EDUCATION: We want schools, early years and other family services to routinely and systematically engage and support fathers to help their children learn and develop.

We know that to achieve change in all these areas, we need new approaches from the ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’. Despite having no funding for campaigning work, we do what we can to push for national-level changes in policy and practice – and to find ways of collaborating with fathers and mothers; employers, unions and other employment bodies; schools, early years providers and other education organisations; and health professionals; to explore new ideas, form powerful partnerships and trial interesting, scaleable approaches.

Below are some examples of the work we’re doing – and how you can get involved. To receive updates into your inbox, sign up here.


FAMILY SERVICES

There’s a dad-shaped hole in NHS and other perinatal services, and we want to fill it.

One problem is the lack of clear, targeted, evidence-based information for new fathers. During the 2020-21 lockdowns, we created two resources that aim to change this:

  • We wrote a ‘fathers’ pathway’ for Baby Buddy, a free app for new parents produced by Best Beginnings which is now the first app in the world to offer personalised daily information to dads on their pregnancy and parenting journey. Find out more here.
  • Becoming Dad, a new guide we developed in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, to help men make sense of what’s happening to them; look after themselves and the others around them; and do the best possible job of becoming a confident father. We launched this on 19 November 2021 (International Men’s Day); the guide is available for free to dads and the family practitioners who support them. Find out more and register to receive the Becoming Dad report here.
  • You can download a poster and flyer about Becoming Dad below:

Bringing Baby Home

Our most recent evidence review in the Contemporary Fathers in the UK series, Bringing Baby Home, sets out what the evidence tells us about fathers’ impact in the first year after their baby’s birth – and about services’ widespread failure to engage, assess and support them. In it, we identify some key policy recommendations, including a basic but crucial one: the need for fathers’ names, contact details and NHS numbers to be entered onto NHS birth notifications so that fathers can be contacted directly by services.

Here’s a quick summary. Download the full report, executive summary and recommendations here.

We have also produced a series of free factsheets which summarise key findings from the report – both to help new dads themselves make sense of their impact, even if services are not addressing them, and to provide a clear rationale for the health professionals, employers and others around them, to value and support them in the vital first year of their babies’ lives.

RCM/FI Engaging Dads toolkit

We are working with the Royal College of Midwives to produce a new father-engagement toolkit, featuring summaries of key evidence about why and how to engage with dads (and other partners). We hope to publish this in October 2022. If you’re a midwife, father, mother or anyone who has experience of successful engagement with dads and would be happy to talk to us about it (in confidence), we’d love to hear from you. Please email Jeremy at j.davies (at) fatherhoodinstitute.org.

FI training

Meanwhile, if you work with families, you may find it useful to sign up for some training or other support. We offer a range of courses for family professionals, including midwives, health visitors and staff from Family Hubs, to help you understand how much fathers matter, and devise the best strategies for engaging with and supporting them. Our new brochure provides more detail on the many courses we offer – including training for professionals to run Becoming Dad sessions for expectant fathers, and our highly evaluated Family Foundations programme for parent-couples. We also have a brochure focused on couple-focused work: find out more and download the Reducing Parental Conflict brochure here.


WORK

Parenting leave reform

Reform of the parenting leave system is a big priority for the Fatherhood Institute. The current system is among the most gender-imbalanced in the developed world, and leaves dads out in the cold. We will be publishing a video and briefing paper proposing what we think is a better approach, in summer 2022. In the meantime, check out these recommendations we put forward in our Cash or Carry (2017) evidence review.

Daddy Leave Diaries logo

Very few dads are in a position to take shared parental leave, but one who is, Dr Mark Gatto, a lecturer at Northumbria University Newcastle Business School, has kindly agreed to share his experiences, via a podcast we’ve called The Daddy Leave Diaries.

We’ll be posting new episodes roughly ten times in his baby’s first year. Here’s the link to the podcast home page: you can listen via Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Working Dads Employer Awards

We were delighted to be part of the judging panel for the inaugural Working Dads Employer Awards, which took place in May 2022. The awards were created by our good friends at the University of Birmingham Equal Parenting Project and Music Football Fatherhood. Congratulations to all the winners, who are finding ways of supporting dads in the workplace. Find out more here.

Flexible working policy

As well as improving the paternity and paternal leave and pay on offer to dads, we want to make it easier for fathers to work flexibly. That means making flexible working the default position for all jobs, putting the onus on employers to state in job adverts what flexibility they can offer – and explain their reasons in fair detail when they can’t. Most parents want this, and many can’t work unless flexible working options are explicitly made available to them.

We are part of the ‘Flex for All’ campaign, alongside the TUC, Pregnant Then Screwed, Mother Pukka and Young Women’s Trust. As part of this campaign, we encouraged dads to make their voice heard in a Government consultation in December 2021, and submitted a response – which you can read below.

The background to the consultation – already described as ‘a flop’ – is that the Government talks about make flexible working ‘the default’. But in fact what they consulted on was whether to make the right to request flexible working a Day 1 right. That’s not the same thing at all; rather than making flexible working available to everyone, unless employers can show good reasons why that’s not possible, it keeps the onus on individual employees to risk their careers by asking to work flexibly – when there’s a strong possibility their employer will refuse, and discriminate against them, or class them as a ‘less committed’, for even posing the question.

At the moment, half of flexible working requests are turned down (often without a clear, justifiable reason) – and even just asking to work flexibly can lead to discrimination.

There are other problems too. The right to request flexible working has existed for all employees since 2014. But flexible working still tends to be thought of – if at all – as an adaptation for working mothers, and it is certainly not widely promoted as an option for fathers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, research suggests dads are less likely than mums to ask to work flexibly. And if they do ask, they are more likely to have their request rejected.

We know that in fact, many dads DO want to work flexibly – our Lockdown Fathers study found that 76% of dads who were at home full-time during the spring 2020 lockdown, wanted more flexible working options post-pandemic, for example. We also know that availability of flexible options matters to men as well as women: a 2019 survey by the Working Dads and Working Mums websites found that 70% of working dads felt stuck in their job because of concerns they wouldn’t find another one with the right flexibility. Also, a fifth of those who did work flexibly, said they felt discriminated against by their employer; and 10% of dads said they had even quit a job after having a flexible working request turned down.

Read this excellent article by The Guardian’s Lexy Topping, published in February 2022, quoting ourselves and other thought leaders on this subject, including Jasmine Kelland from Portsmouth Business School, and Holly Birkett & Sarah Forbes from the University of Birmingham Equal Parenting Project.

We are bidding for funding to research attitudes and practices around flexible working by fathers in 2023, to see how much things have changed since the pandemic.

In the meantime, do please get in touch if you’d like to share your experience of either making a success of flexible working, or not being able to. Email Jeremy at j.davies (at) fatherhoodinstitute.org, or tag us in a tweet using the hashtags #flexforall and #timewithdad.

FI workplace webinars

We offer presentations, webinars and other forms of support for employers and workplace parent networks. Find out more http://www.fatherhoodinstitute.org/2018/workplace-seminars/

Share your story

We want to hear from you if you’re a dad with lived experience of taking parental and paternity leave; if you work flexibly; or if you’ve felt restricted by the current system. We’re especially to keen to speak to fathers who work in the ‘gig economy’. Recent research published by the TUC suggests that men now make up more than two-thirds of so-called ‘platform workers’ (68% in 2021, up from 49% in 2016). They are also most likely to be in the 25-44 age group – coinciding with the peak period for becoming fathers. Are you a dad who works for Uber, Deliveroo or another platform? If so, we’d love to pick your brains. Email Jeremy at j.davies (at) fatherhoodinstitute.org.


EDUCATION

As well as training schools and early years education & childcare providers to engage more effectively with fathers – and, via our MITEY campaign – to work towards creating a more gender-diverse workforce, we work with them to offer Fathers Reading Every Day, a simple ‘reading for pleasure’ programme for dads and their children.

We are also co-investigators on the PIECE (Paternal Involvement and its Effects on Children’s Education) study, alongside Dr Helen Norman, senior research fellow at Leeds Business School. Check out this blog, which reports on some early findings from the study – including that 59% of fathers feel they don’t spend enough time with their children, and that this may be impacting negatively on children’s learning.

As part of this work we have conducted a survey of dads’ experiences of supporting their children’s early learning – and in May 2022 we held a series of ‘think-ins’ (The PIECE Talks), to feed into new resources to help parents and schools work more effectively together. We’ll be producing toolkits for schools and fathers in late 2022/early 2023. If you’ve got a story to tell (good or bad), please get in touch.

A postcript…

While we’re on the subject of fathers and education, a bugbear of ours is that politicians and the media often talk about paid-for childcare as a women’s issue. It’s as if expensive childcare is only a problem for mothers – for whom it’s completely natural and to-be-expected that they (and they alone) might have to choose between continuing their career (and paying high nursery fees) or staying home instead. The dads in these families, whose careers are also dependent on someone (paid staff or wife/partner – someone!) looking after their children, are airbrushed out of the discussion. So sometimes – just sometimes – we hear female MPs talk about it, and if they do it’s like they’re talking into an echo chamber.

This Daily Mail article is a classic example: it frames the cost of childcare in terms of women’s average earnings, rather than household earnings, thus promoting the idea that only mothers’ careers depend on affordable childcare, rather than acknowledging that fathers’ ability to provide for their families is similarly dependent on someone else looking after their children.

MoneySupermarket recently did an opinion survey on the subject of childcare costs (they found that parents are shelling out an average of £7,207 annually, which is over a quarter (28%) of the average wage, which stands at £25,780). Among other things, they found that 29% of fathers strongly believe the government does not do enough to help parents pay for childcare, compared to 41% of mothers – based on a sample of 1,000 UK parents of 0-14 year-olds who pay or have paid for childcare (of these 1,000, 532 were mothers, 466 were fathers and two did not want to disclose their gender).

Dads might be a bit less exercised about this than mums are – but that’s hardly surprising given how the childcare debate is framed (see above!), and their respective positions on the earning/caregiving spectrum. And if almost a third of dads state openly that they care about the issue, that suggests a not insignificant constituency of interest.


Press and events

The i-paper published an article about early findings from the PIECE study (April 2022).

Watch our recent BritainThinks webinar, Transforming workplaces, transforming families.

Listen to our ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ podcast with Ed Miliband, Geoff Lloyd and the Prime Minister of Iceland.

Read this Sunday Telegraph feature for Father’s Day 2021.

This article in The Conversation, summarising research by a team at the University of Essex, draws on our Lockdown Fathers study to outline the importance of the time fathers spend with their children, and their confidence as caregivers.

In this piece in Grazia, our fellow flexible working campaigner Anna Whitehouse aka Mother Pukka set out why we need to stop talking about flexible working as a female problem.

We spoke to The Guardian about fathers and flexible working.