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We can all do better when it comes to improving the support we offer to new fathers in the workplace

JUNE is the month when our attention turns to the men in our life with Men’s Health Month and Father’s Day traditionally being held.

As an HR professional the past few weeks have also provided an ideal opportunity for me to consider the support we offer to men in the workplace, particularly when it comes to the birth of a new baby.

As employers and managers, much of our attention turns to mums. We help them to arrange time for their appointments, support them and make sure their workload isn’t too much during those important first months, and make sure all the arrangements are in place when the time for their maternity leave finally arrives.

But what about dads?

Just as important in any new family, the support we offer to new fathers in the UK has been described as ‘woefully inadequate’ in one report and ‘measly’ in another, forcing many new dads and partners to make the heartbreaking decision to stay at work and miss out on important time together as a new family.

With all that in mind, I wanted to focus for a moment on paternity leave and the steps employers can take to allow fathers to make the most of this unique and precious time.

Create a culture which works for everyone

Two weeks.

That’s all the Government offers in terms of statutory paternity leave for new fathers in the UK and, as the cost-of-living crisis continues to hit hard, taking up the offer of shared parental leave simply isn’t an option, forcing many families to make extreme decisions at what should be the happiest time of their lives.

According to a new report published this week by The Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP), Pregnant Then Screwed and Women in Data®, 22% of men have opted not to take any leave at all following the birth of their baby, affecting the mental health and wellbeing of both parents, with many citing financial hardship as the reason for not taking their full entitlement.

In other countries, across Europe and beyond, the rules are much more flexible.

In Lithuania for example, fathers are eligible to take 30 days of parental leave at 77.58% of total earnings, while in Sweden, dads are entitled to 480 days of leave per child, with 390 paid at 80% of their earnings. In Japan, dads are able to take one full year of parental leave.

Of course, there is much businesses can do to support new families, and dads in particular, ranging from an overhaul of maternity and paternity policy to ensure parents have more time off with their new family, allowing parents to work from home or giving them the flexibility to change their working patterns.

One of my clients has already taken this board, offering new fathers an additional 10 days paid annual leave during the holiday year their child was born as a token of their support. You just never know when that extra time will be needed.

As with many things related to HR, my advice is simply to listen. Get to know your employees, listen to them as individuals and learn about what they need.

Doing so will help you to create a happy, healthy workplace and a culture which really does work for everyone.

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