THE BLOG

The Fatherhood Penalty: It's Real And It's Here

17/01/2017 16:22 GMT | Updated 17/01/2017 16:22 GMT

You've probably heard of the motherhood penalty. It's the penalty many women pay when they have children and either leave their careers or take on lower paid, less demanding jobs. Have you, however, given any consideration to the fatherhood penalty?

The charity Working Families has just published it's fifth, annual Working Families Index and has highlighted the fatherhood penalty as a real and genuine risk. Having questioned 2,750 mums and dads, it's found 47% of men would like to downshift into a less stressful job.

In addition to this, eight out of ten mothers and seven out of ten fathers said they would assess their childcare needs before taking a new job or promotion. This was seen as a sign that both genders feel they might have to downgrade their careers in order to care for their families.

Among millennials, feelings were particularly strong. In total, 46% said they would be willing to take a pay cut to achieve a better work life balance. The figure for fathers overall was 38%.

For me the Fatherhood Penalty is all too real. It goes some way to explaining why I left the world of comfortable, regular employment to be come a stay at home father.

I would often bring work home at evenings and weekends. Encouraged to apply for a new job within the same organisation, I was discreetly informed I would be expected to log on and do some additional work in the evenings. I also experienced difficulties whenever one of my daughters fell ill.

In the end I gave up and did exactly what Working Families predicts many men will do: I took on a less demanding, less-skilled part-time job. When my eldest daughter started school, I struggled on for a bit, but eventually gave up altogether.

Many fathers want to take a more active role in family life. In many respects society demands it, and quite rightly so. The days of the distant, uninterested father are history. Through financial necessity or choice, many women work these days. As a result, men have to get more involved on the domestic front.

This has created a situation where some men are considering their options. This includes taking on lower quality, less well-paid work with better hours.

We all know that many talented women leave the workforce or don't work to their full potential after having children. That's desperately sad.

Men also struggle to have it all and I am glad this has been recognised by Working Families. I hope this will lead to a debate about what employers, employees and policymakers can do to retain both talented men and women in the workforce once they have kids. If not, we're all going to suffer.