The white paper is based on a Workingmums.co.uk roundtable held in June and hosted by Lloyds Banking Group which brought together human resources and diversity heads at 11 of the UK’s leading employers.
The aim was to share experiences of what works and where the challenges are. The roundtable was chaired by Dr Emma Banister from Alliance Manchester Business School, who spoke about the Making Room for Dad project on fathers and fathering within the context of Shared Parental Leave. The project, which she co–leads with Dr Ben Kerrane (Lancaster University Management School), revolves around the role of dads in the crucial first year after their child is born where patterns of sharing care are established.
In the session on supporting dads, there was a lot of discussion of Shared Parental Leave. It was felt that better communication was needed on the policy, which was very complicated, and that drop-in sessions rather than sending out information might work better since each families’ circumstances differed. Enhancing Shared Parental Pay could also show that employers value dads being more involved in childcare and it was suggested that employers could do more to support dads during SPL.
Employers felt that flexible working was more of a focus for them with dads because of the low numbers currently opting for SPL. Support over flexible working and encouraging greater openness about being a dad at work could promote the kind of culture change which would enable greater choice over sharing of care responsibilities between mums and dads.
Lloyds Banking Group described a huge appetite for parenting information from dads. Their colleague network, Family Matters, normally gets 300-400 people listening into lunchtime sessions on parenting issues, but the ones on issues relating to dads get 800 people and more.
Other participants had also seen a huge interest from men in information and support for those with caring responsibilities.
On returner programmes, the roundtable discussed expectations that career breaks would become the norm and that supported return therefore made increasing business sense. All those who had run programmes spoke of the high calibre of candidates, although many had confidence issues due to the time they had taken out of the workplace. The quality of candidates meant the programmes were gaining a good reputation. Many felt they needed to offer specific returner roles rather than doing a general call-out for skills so that those taking part were not disappointed. They also spoke about the need for a different way of assessing recruits who were returners, based on potential rather than current achievements, and the need for more support and preparation before assessments. It was noted that flexible working was a key issue for returners.
Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, said: “Our roundtables are an opportunity for employers to share their experiences on issues relating to gender diversity and flexible working. The discussions are always frank and are evidence of the real desire to make progress in this area.”
The free white paper with full details of the discussions is available here.