• FWX March qtr  -1.6% (72.2pts)
  • FWX y-o-y change  0.9% (72.2pts)
  • Total timeframe to Gender Equality  59
  • Timeframe to Equality on Employment  28 years
  • Timeframe to Equality on Underemployment  15.5 years
  • Timeframe to Equality on Gender Pay Gap  22 years
  • Timeframe to Equality on Unpaid Work  59 years
  • Timeframe to Equality for Women On Boards  6.5 years
  • Timeframe to Equality on Superannuation  19 years
  • Gender Pay Gap 2021  13.9%
  • Gender Pay Gap sub-index 2021  (86pts)
  • Employment sub-index 2021  1.2pts (72pts)
  • Superannuation sub-index  5.4pts (74.6pts)
  • Gender Gap Superannuation  25%
  • Underemployment Rate sub-index  -8.1pts (74.6pts)
  • Education sub-index  92pts
  • ASX 200 Women On Boards sub-index  69pts
  • ASX 200 Women On Boards  34.5%
  • Unpaid Work sub-index  67pts

Flexible working hours a farce for Aussie dads

November 5, 2021

Workplace culture and masculine norms are stopping Aussie Dads from asking for flexible work, including paid parental leave, new research has found.

According to University of South Australia researcher, Dr Ashlee Borgkvist says the low uptake of formal flexible working arrangements by dads is primarily due to a perceived, and quite often objective, lack of support from workplace managers and colleagues alike.

“Workplace flexibility is typically accepted as an option for mothers, but when it comes to dads, flexibility is unlikely to be as readily accepted – and in some cases not even considered,” says Dr Borgkvist.

In Australia, only 2% of organisations have set targets to improve men’s participation in flexible work.

And while COVID-19 provided an opportunity for businesses to trial flexible work, few organisations appear ready to adopt this in the longer term, opting to ‘return to normal’ once working from home was no longer required due to lockdowns. Check out the Economic Equality Pact 2030 for what your organisation could be doing to close gender gaps on flexible work.

“Workplace and societal norms play a big role in the lack of flexibility for dads, with many men feeling pressure to conform to stereotypical concepts of the male ‘breadwinner’ – they’re applauded for earning the dollars to support their family but frowned upon if they consider flexibility to do the same.

“Concerningly, many new fathers feel they need to prove their commitment to the job by purposely avoiding flexibility, or in some instances, taking on more hours when they become a new father. They may also take on more hours because they are feeling financial pressures.”

Involving fathers early on in a child’s life has been found to create a bond which means they are more likely to maintain these connections throughout the child’s life. In turn, this involved fathering can have positive outcomes for that child’s future.

Dr Borgkvist says that while Australia’s national Paid Parental Leave scheme is gender neutral and so can be used by mums or dads, the stigma of asking for flexibility, along with the need for mothers to utilise the whole Paid Parental Leave period, is limiting it’s uptake by dads.

This can have a flow on effect where dads don’t feel like they should be using flexibility as their children grow either.

“Some fathers are trying to be more flexible – say, for example, by coming into work late after dropping the kids at school – but they’re also very aware of the need to visibly minimise their time away from paid work. Of course, this can depend on the workplace, but even where workplaces have flexibility policies there is often an unspoken, or cultural, discouragement of dads taking time away from work for family reasons,” Dr Borgkvist says.

“So, while the desire and need for flexible work hours is there, it’s being squashed by restrictive workplace cultures. As you can imagine, these ideas around flexible work also have impacts for how women who use flexibility are perceived within workplaces.”

“To initiate change in relation to dad’s use of flexibility, and parental leave in particular, cultural change is vital. But this can only be achieved when we have strong social policies supported by business practice,” Dr Borgkvist says.

“Evidence shows that when fathers are provided with well-compensated, targeted and extended parental leave, they are very likely to take it.

“Australia is very conservative when it comes to fathers and parental leave. Only when governments and businesses can commit to tangible and practical change will we see flexibility become a real option for Aussie dads.”


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November 5, 2021
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