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Business And Careers Careers Advice Parenting

Are universities too powerful in the modern world?

University degrees are overrated. There, its out there and I am not taking it back! I have major concerns about the stranglehold universities have over both our children’s education and their future recruitment.

I first began to question the value of degrees a few years ago. When I was on the interview panel seeking, to recruit an individual for an entry level media relations role. Numerous graduates had applied for the job and every applicant’s CV followed the same pattern. Degree followed by 12-18 months work in either unpaid or short-term internships, often lasting around three months.

Discrimination against people both with and without University Degrees

This experience made me question what was going on in the world of recruitment. It seemed to me that there were so many graduates looking for work that employers could be hyper-selective. To the point that young adults who had left university tens of thousands of pounds in debt could find themselves working unpaid before securing their first entry level role.

Were they in a better position than someone who left school and went straight into work after school? At least the 18 year old school leaver would be earning a proper salary by their early twenties.

I heard of another horror story that demonstrates the negative impact mass university education has had on recruitment. Someone I know with 18 years’ experience working in IT management interviewed for a new job. One of the interviewers asked why his degree wasn’t on his CV. My friend explained he didn’t have a degree, at which point the atmosphere changed. He never heard from the interview panel again. I can’t say for certain what the problem was on this occasion, but I’ll take a guess.

Encouraging young people to finish school and go to uni has been going on for the past 25 years. Government policy was to get at least 50% of youngsters into higher education. This was only dropped in the past few months. The result is that we now have 25 years’ worth of graduates in the workforce. Many of them in managerial positions and recruiting staff. These managers naturally want to recruit their own kind and so graduates have the edge. We’re now in the ridiculous position where many administrative roles require you to have a degree.

For Universities, with great Power comes great Profit.

Universities are doing nothing to stop this. They’re making a fortune in tuition fees. It’s not in their financial interest to make degrees difficult or be fussy about who they let through the doors.

As if to prove the point, I recently bumped into an academic I know while at the supermarket. It was a typical lockdown thing, we hadn’t seen each other in several months and so spent the best part of half an hour, facemasks covering our faces, putting the world to rights while stood next to shelves of dried pasta (one metre apart, obviously).

During our chat, he admitted to me that some of the degrees his students study were bumped up to the Masters degree. The degree had been simplified so it could include modules on skills such as giving presentations, the kind of thing a corporate trainer teaches you in a day.

Students are leaving university around £60,000 in debt. What are they getting for that debt? If this is a typical example my friend gave, it suggests that many students are getting sub-standard degrees. They will spend a year or two in insecure, poorly paid work before getting an entry level job. I am not against universities or degrees, but I find myself seriously questioning the wisdom of mass, degree-level education.

Alternatives to University

Universities definitely have their place in the higher education system. What’s happened, however, is that alternatives are thin on the ground. I am just old enough to remember polytechnics. They were much derided, but with hindsight I think it’s fair to say they had an incredibly valuable place in our education system providing technical, vocational qualifications.

I’d also question whether teachers and career advisers do enough to encourage youngsters to consider apprenticeships or Higher National Diplomas. Modern apprenticeships, especially higher apprenticeships, look like a superb way to gain a degree and work experience without building up any of the debilitating debt (someone I know involved in recruitment tells me his organisation recruits apprentices and also has a graduate fast track scheme. He says the apprentices are often brilliant whereas many of the graduates arrive “with an attitude problem.”)

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has publicly said he thinks there is a “snobbishness” around vocational qualifications and that he wants this to change. I think he is absolutely correct and I am delighted to see the Government introducing T-Levels and is pushing to increase the profile of apprenticeships. For any dads wishing to give their kids some career advice vocational qualifications are something to consider.

The recruitment industry, however, has a role to play. If an employer or a manager says a role should only be open to graduates, recruitment agencies and HR professionals should ask why. Employers and managers need to challenge their own bias about non-graduates.

Mass, degree education may have seemed like a good idea when it was introduced. A quarter of a century later, I think we need to ask if the power unwittingly given to universities is doing more harm than good.

If you want to read more about this topic why not have a read of why the apprenticeship route is a smart alternative choice to university.

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Business And Careers Careers Advice Parenting

Dads: Careers advice for your children

As your children get older, your role as a father changes. While my eldest daughter is only 12, I have found myself having to give careers advice. And have to talk to her about the educational choices required to achieve her career choices.

Giving careers advice to youngsters presents certain challenges because the world of employment moves rapidly. When I was young, internships didn’t exist. Neither did modern apprenticeships and if you didn’t go to university, people would cross the road to avoid you (okay, slight exaggeration but university was the expected route for most people).

So what careers advice should a father give to their child in 2021? How can you make sure you are not giving advice suitable for the 1990s? I’ve spoken to a recruitment expert and leadership expert (both dads, fittingly), a higher education expert and a Government Minister to find out.

Don’t expect to have everything figured out from day one

As a teen, I felt under immense pressure to decide what I was going to do with my life. Much of the pressure came from my family who wanted to know I had a firm career path. But transformative coach Matthew Fox says this is a mistake.

“Don’t feel that you have to have worked out how life is going to be from day one. There are many chapters that will unfold which you can’t predict or control. Enjoy each of them as they lead to the next one.”

Fox, who works with senior leaders and business owning dads, added that you “shouldn’t compare yourself to others” and that you should “be ready to jump at opportunities when they arise.”

I found these comments very interesting. I was expecting something about choosing your A-levels. Fox, however, seems to be suggesting flexibility and a positive mental attitude will take you far (you can check out Fox’s leadership and fatherhood podcast here).

Consider vocational qualifications

The Government has made no secret of its desire to make more vocational qualifications available and to increase their appeal. One of the newest qualifications is the T-Level which was launched last year.

Rather like A-Levels, T-Levels are available to study immediately after GCSEs. You study them for two years and they are a mix of classroom learning and on the job experience. A T-Level is the equivalent to three A-Levels.

Speaking exclusively to DaddyJobs.co.uk, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Gillian Keegan said:

“With course content designed by over 250 leading employers and a nine-week industry placement included, T Levels offer young people a unique opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills businesses need so they can get a head start on their future career.”

As a new qualification, T-Levels are only available in a few industries right now. But they’re going to expand massively between now and 2023. Keegan explained:

“Those interested in designing buildings or managing construction sites should take a look at the T-Levels in Construction, young people keen to explore a career working with children should think about the Education and Childcare course and anyone thinking of becoming a programmer or a software engineer should consider our Digital T Levels.”

T-Levels look like a superb option to academic study and the planned subject areas (see here) are very impressive. These are definitely a qualification to watch, especially if you have a younger teen as more options will be available to them in the next few years. Encouraging children to look into this route could be a good piece of careers advice.

Career paths can be “wiggly”. So your careers advice may need to be “wiggly” too.

Josie Whiteley is a former lecturer, freelance education consultant and vice-chair of the National Education Union Leadership Council. (In other words, she’s a big deal in the world of higher education).

As you might expect, Whiteley is an advocate of higher education. Stressing that youngsters should make choices based on their interests:

“When making choices whether for GCSEs or jobs choose subjects/specialisms/areas that interest you, not what your parents or teachers say you ought to study.”

While big on education, Whiteley says practical skills are important: “Dads should ensure their kids know how to budget to survive college, the real world or a job.”

Whiteley also said dads should encourage their offspring to research career choices. As they may be working in their chosen field for years, maybe decades. Even so, she said young people should not panic if something doesn’t work out: “If you make a wrong subject or career choice you can always change. Your road map to reach your ideal job might just look a bit more wiggly than a straight route from A to B.”

It’s about YOU

“I’ve interviewed thousands of people over the years and I can categorically tell you, not one person has been offered a role where they didn’t fit the company.” says recruitment specialist and dad Phil Palmer, AKA The Corporate Dad.

Palmer has not only worked in recruitment for 12 years, but is trying to help his 18-year-old daughter navigate “the important choices in her life”. He believes that “education is just one of the tools that you will need. A lot can come down to ‘you’.”

He adds that having a degree can be important for certain roles. He states:

“I wouldn’t want an unqualified doctor working on my appendix”. But stresses he’s known graduates starting in admin roles and senior C-suite executives without degrees.

Palmer says social skills are vital, especially in an interview scenario. Answering with yes / no answers won’t get you far.

“What do you like? Can you hold a conversation and talk about interesting and relevant facts? Do you actively listen?”

I thought this advice followed on nicely from Fox’s. Employers want to know that you are the right person for the role and that you have the skills to do the job well. Again, it’s not simply about qualifications as it can come down to your ability to hold a conversation and communicate.

In summary; a good piece of careers advice is that character is important

Providing your children with careers advice is never going to be easy. Speaking to these experts, however, shows that an individual’s character is vitally important. This will dictate their attitude to decision making and study. It’ll also dictate whether they fit in an organisation and have skills such as communication and listening skills. Qualifications definitely have their place, but youngsters shouldn’t feel railroaded down the academic route. If there’s one thing I have taken away from this exercise, it’s that career paths are not always straight. Youngsters should not feel pressured to have their life mapped out at a young age. They may not know what they want to do at first and mistakes can be undone. It’s up to us parents to support the decisions our children make. And accept the fact we may not necessarily agree with them.

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Flexible Working Parenting Shared Parental Leave

Supporting Men in the Workplace upon Return to Work

As Governments of the United Kingdom cautiously signal a slow easing of lockdown restrictions, employees are going to trickle back into the workplace. They may not return five days a week, but return they will. This begs the question: What steps are employers taking to welcome back men into the workplace?


That may sound like a sexist question, but it isn’t. Allow me to explain why:


Many employers are used to welcoming female staff back to work after a prolonged period of maternity leave. Employers often have Keeping In Touch days and other initiatives for women, but not men. Added to this, in most households it is mum who balances work while doing most of the childcare. The past year has been very different. Fathers have been around to help with getting the kids ready in the morning, with remote learning and been much more involved with family life.


This has resulted in a big shift in mentality for lots of men. Far from being sexist, what we’ll hopefully see is men taking on more of the childcare and domestic burden at home. Thereby freeing women up to concentrate on work and their careers. The question is, are employers ready for this monumental change in working culture?


Men’s domestic roles have changed


I asked Ian Dinwiddy for his opinion. Ian operates Inspiring Dads, a coaching service for men in the workplace who struggle balancing work and family life. I asked how he thought employers should prepare for welcoming dads back to the workplace:


“For many people, the return to the workplace will be fraught with tension, potential ongoing concerns about personal safety, and the ‘simple’ emotional challenges of change.


“To support men, it is vital to take the time for an individual assessment of needs, both from a mental health perspective and work life ‘balance’ perspective. Many men will have fundamentally changed their domestic role, especially dads caring for children, and altered their expectations of the trade-offs they are prepared to accept.”


As you can see, Ian confirmed what I’d been thinking: Many men will have reassessed their role in the home. Ian also issued the following warning:


“Any failure to recognise and carefully support men are likely to store up well-being, performance, and talent retention issues for businesses everywhere.”


What the employer organisations say


With Ian’s words ringing in my ears, I approached the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). I asked what advice it was giving employers about welcoming back men into the workplace. I was directed to this article on the FSB website.


Credit where it’s due, the article addresses Ian’s concern that employees might be concerned about the risks posed by returning to the workplace. It also mentioned childcare and the possibility of furloughing staff for longer if necessary so they can deal with children. That said, the FSB didn’t offer any specific advice for supporting dads (or mums) when they return to work.

My next stop was the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The CBI had a dedicated Coronavirus Hub on its website with some great resources. There were ideas and case studies to help employers support staff mental health and support staff working from home. There was mention of the stresses faced by “working parents” but nothing about easing working dads back into the workplace.


Having looked at a couple of employer organisations, I approached an employer directly. Zurich is a company with a reputation for being a very forward-thinking organisation with a good approach to gender equality. I made enquiries about how it was preparing for staff to return and if it had identified any issues where men in the workplace might need some additional support.

The insurer hasn’t yet firmed up its plans. It is still “considering how to welcome staff back to the workplace” so it’s unclear at this stage what support will be available.

How to support men returning to the workplace

All things considered, I felt more than a little underwhelmed with how UK employers are preparing to welcome men back into the workplace.
With no one else providing tips for helping male employees back in to the office, I’ve put together a few suggestions:

  1. Be mindful of the fact men are less likely to acknowledge and admit they are having difficulties re-adjusting to office life. Have regular catch-ups. Ask how they are doing and make sure they are familiar with any workplace counselling services or mental health support that is on offer.
  2. Why not introduce Keeping In Touch days for all employees before they return to the office? There is no reason why these can’t run virtually.
  3. Look at the diversity training undertaken by your management team. Do they undertake training to better understand the stresses and strains faced by mums AND dads? A lot of diversity training ignores dads. This is a big oversight. The reality is that many employers are more flexible in their approach to working mothers. After a year of working from home, much of it spent in the company of their children, dads will expect equal treatment. Managers need to be aware of this.
  4. Are you ready and prepared for a surge in requests from male employees who want to formalise flexible working arrangements? They’ve spent a year balancing work with childcare responsibilities and been productive. And employers need to give all such requests serious consideration thinking long and hard before turning them down.
  5. Keep in mind that employees may have other caring responsibilities. They may be looking after an ill or disabled family member or spouse.

Being Aware that Change has taken place

To wrap up, let me make clear that women should receive the same levels of support. But employers need to be aware of how a year of working from home will have impacted and changed the expectations of fathers.

Things have changed a lot for men and employers need to accept this and take appropriate action. If they don’t, men will talk to employers who offer greater understanding and flexibility.

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Business And Careers Flexible Working

CV alternatives: What you need to know

This month I’ve spoken to some specialists to find out what alternatives exist to the CV and what job seekers might need to keep in mind.

The economy and jobs market are at an interesting juncture. We all know COVID-19 has led to huge numbers of redundancies, but with the vaccine roll out going well there are reasons to be hopeful and positive signs the economy will soon grow again.

If you are one of those people who lost their job or are thinking now might be the time to seek a new challenge, you need to be aware of how the recruitment process has changed over recent years. The good old curriculum vitae or CV used to be the standard tool for all job seekers. To stand out these days, you may need to do something a bit different. 

Let’s take a look at what the experts said.

The Hardcore CV Dodger

Charlotte Nichols is the managing director of PR and Marketing agency Harvey and Hugo. Wanting potential recruits to get creative and demonstrate their skills and talents, she started a campaign called #HarveySaysNoCVs. While few recruiters go to quite these lengths, it shows that recruiters are taking a different approach to the old “sift and interview” way of doing things. Nichols said her favourite CV alternatives were: 

1. Website 

2. Video

3. Animation 

Automated Tracking Systems (ATS)

Have you ever applied for a job online? Odds are the recruiter has used an ATS system. Essentially, this part of the recruitment system is automated. According to Matthew Hunter, Industrial Director at MET Recruitment, an ATS can be set up to look for certain key words, employer names, years of service in particular roles and educational background.  

Do you feel uncomfortable reading that? You aren’t alone. As Hunter says: “ATS Application Forms take the personal touch of out of recruitment.”

There are also common pitfalls people make, such as assuming details about education aren’t important. Hunter advises that if the application involves an application via ATS, you should: “Read up on the role read up on the role thoroughly and almost write your application with one eye on ensuring all answers are pointing towards what the system is looking for.”

Don’t Forget Social Media

A further suggestion put forward by Hunter is to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and dynamic. A lot of recruiters spend time on LinkedIn looking for candidates so keep this in mind when posting to the platform. Think about how you present yourself to the world. A surprising number of people use profile pictures that wouldn’t look out of place on a dating website (…and that’s never a good look).

LinkedIn may be quite an obvious choice of social media platform, but how about Clubhouse? The audio-only social media platform is looking to recruit a senior executive and is using a novel approach to recruit them.

Applicants have to send an email to People and Culture Director Jenny Battenhall, explaining why they’re correct for the role. If applicants make it through to the next round, they will undertake an interview with Clubhouse’s Chief Executive Officer Drew Benvie in a closed room on the platform.  

Interviews on Clubhouse are unlikely to be mainstream any time soon. Even so, Battenhall pointed out that COVID-19 has made video interviews very popular. She said candidates should be prepared for this and ensure all the necessary tech works properly. 

Personal Website

Hardcore CV dodger Charlotte Nichols wasn’t the only person I spoke to who mentioned personal websites as being important. It seems this is becoming a much more common way to get your name out there. 

Deepak Shukla is founder of Resumé Cats. Interestingly this is a CV design service, but Shukla has had to move with the times. 

He said: “Personal landing pages are an excellent way of showcasing your work portfolio, previous employer or client testimonials and writing proficiency. They should be designed with search engine optimisation (SEO) in mind, enabling potential employers to find you organically through Google searches.”

What of the CV?

As you can see, the CV isn’t quite as central to the recruitment process as it once was. Nonetheless, some feel it still has a place. 

Employment Solutions recruits candidates in the engineering and manufacturing sectors. Chris Taylor, Technical Team Leader, had the following advice for anyone putting a CV together: 

“Remember that a CV should just be a snapshot of your experience to date. Before we send a candidate’s CV for a potential role, we tend to remove a lot of the personal information that has been supplied. Keep it simple, all you need is your name, contact details and overview of relevant experience.”

Chris Taylor, Technical Team Leader

Creativity is Key

As you can see, there are many alternatives to the CV. It seems a good place to start is to create a personal website and to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and fresh

Whatever else you do, be it a video, an animation, an ATS application or even if you have to apply for a role using a CV, creativity will be key. Employers need people to demonstrate their relevant experience clearly and in a way that’s original. 

To finish off, why don’t you tell DaddyJobs.co.uk if you think the traditional CV is dead? Its parent company Find Your Flex is asking people for their opinions and to explore the role of unconscious bias and alternative CV’s in recruiting. It’s a really simply survey and you can take part by following this link and have your voice heard. 

Want to take a look at what Flexible Working might look like for 2021? Click through to read some interesting predications.

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Flexible Working

Why flexible working for grandparents is essential

When my kids started school, there was a group of people I didn’t expect to see in the playground on the school run: Grandparents. Some granddads and grandmothers collected children every day.

It quickly became clear there was a huge army of working parents relying on grandparents to look after little ones. It also came as a bit of a surprise to see this, possibly because of my own circumstances. My wife and I live hundreds of miles away from our families, so we’ve never been able to rely on grandparents for day-to-day support.

That said, there’s one grandad in our extended family who looks after his grandchildren a great deal. He’s retired and in his seventies but very proud of what he does. It’s always a delight to talk to him and hear what he’s been getting up to with his grandsons.

Support for grandparents in the workplace 

Do grandfathers and grandmothers get the support, help or recognition they deserve? To be honest, the picture seems to be a bit messy. 

Here are a few facts. According to the Usdaw Union, there are 14 million grandparents in the UK, half of whom are under the age of 65 so it’s reasonable to assume around 7million of these individuals are still working. Half of all kids under the age of five spend some time being looked after by grandparents. And 2.2million grandparents look after grandchildren to allow mum and dad to work.

Many of these grandparents are what’s known as ‘sandwich carers’. Us parents may think we’ve got it tough with young children, but sandwich carers are looking after two generations. They’re usually looking after their own parents, while also providing childcare for grandchildren and holding down a day job. 

We often think of parents needing flexible working. As the statistics I’ve quoted above show, the older generations are under just as much pressure than their younger counterparts and in the case of sandwich carers, they’re arguably under even more pressure. 

Do we do enough to recognise the immense contribution grandparents make both as employees and as caregivers? I would say their efforts often go unnoticed and unrecognised and employment law doesn’t always make things easy for them.

Flexible working for grandparents, but it’s not all good news

The good news is that grandparents have the right to request flexible working, just like anyone else. Beyond this, things get a bit difficult for any grandfather or grandmother providing care, especially if its for grandchildren.

Employees generally have the legal right to “time off for dependants” if there is an emergency. The catch is that dependants usually have to live with you. 

Unpaid parental leave is another possibility. The catch? You must have legal parental responsibility for any child you are looking after. Yet this won’t apply to the majority of grandparents. 

The impact of COVID-19 on working parents and grandparents

I have somehow got to this point without mentioning the impact of COVID-19. Various campaigns have sprung up recently calling for parents to have the right to be furloughed because they have childcare responsibilities.

Part of the problem is that some grandparents are having to shield or are simply too nervous about catching COVID to look after grandchildren. It’s creating a childcare crisis and some employers are losing staff as a result. 

Hopefully this is just a temporary blip and we’ll return to the ‘new normal’ once the vaccine has been rolled out. When we do return to normal (whatever that normal is) flexible working has to be a the centre of it to enable employers to recruit and retain the best talent and enable parents and grandparents to keep working if that’s their wish.

Older workers have a lot to offer

If we want to make it easy for employers to recruit and retain the best talent, we have to make flexible working available and acceptable for all employees. This includes grandparents who may have all manner of caring responsibilities. Such as looking after grandchildren while mum and dad work.

We also need to recognise that older workers have a lot to offer employees. One of the most compelling arguments I heard for encouraging older men to stay in the workplace is that they have benefitted from a working culture that excluded women. As they reach the end of their working lives, these men make great mentors for women and have lots of knowledge to pass on to younger women who lack female role models and are starting out on their careers. If we don’t make it easy for these older men to stay in the workplace, that knowledge will be lost and no one will benefit from it.

These grandparents deserve our recognition and our support. They’re doing many of us younger workers a huge favour. Employers may be doing their bit by allowing flexible working for grandparents who are caregivers, but it’s a shame employment law hasn’t caught up.

You can check here to see what the predicted changes are for flexible working for 2021: Flexible Working: Predictions For 2021

Or if you are a someone who is looking for a new job with flexible working hours, you can search our jobs board to find the right fit for you: https://jobs.findyourflex.co.uk/

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Flexible Working Parenting

The Pressures Felt By Working Dads

The subject of my first blog post of 2021 is very timely. I had planned to write something about the pressures felt by working dads. As COVID-19 yet again closes schools and the workforce is ordered to work from home, those pressures will be plain for all to see in households across the country.

The reason I wanted to write this post is that I regularly see working parents in the media discussing the pressures they feel. Nines times out of then those parents are mums. Tens times out of ten, the discussion focuses on the pressures faced by parents with very young children. If there’s one community that is consistently overlooked, it’s dads like myself. Dads with children in the middle years of childhood.

What pressures do working dads face?

With that point made, what pressures do dads face? Ultimately, the pressures felt by working dads come from two sources: Their employer and their family. I shall first look at the pressures employers often unwittingly place on male staff. 

Unconscious bias is a huge problem. Managers frequently pressure men to put work before family. Why? Well, they’re men and childcare is women’s work innit? I know of one woman, a well known academic as it happens, whose husband was once asked “Why the **** can’t your missus do it?” When he made clear to his boss that he had to undertake a routine childcare task. 

I’ll give a further example. The University of Birmingham and University of Kent recently did a research project into working practices during the pandemic. It found that managers contacted male employees working at home twice as much as female ones. Their seemed to be an understanding that women might be busy with kids. Whereas men would be 100% available to their employer at all times.   

Attitudes like this fail to appreciate that most households are dual income. They also fail to appreciate that men have responsibilities away from the workplace. Striking a good work / life balance is made all the tougher when your employer doesn’t want to acknowledge your life away from work.

Pressures from the family

When a man becomes a dad or a child is born, he will often take some shared parental leave. The arrival of a newborn is an exciting time, but it does also come with some stress. Sleep and feeding patterns have to be established. If a couple already have children, their needs must be attended to also. 

In my experience, employers are generally quite good at acknowledging these stresses. That won’t be every man’s experience, but it is mine. 

As kids get older, dads can have real issues because they are pressured not to get involved with their children so they can focus on work. If you have school-aged children, just take a moment to think about the last Nativity play you attended or sports day your child participated in. (I know you may have to think back to the pre-COVID era!). 

How many dads were there? I’ll wager there were some, but not nearly as many as mums. 

I know some dads genuinely struggle to get the time off work because of the nature of their employment, but many simply don’t see such events as in their ‘fatherly job description.’ This is partly because employers don’t always make it easy for men to do these things. 

Men also feel pressured by the culture of presenteeism. Hopefully COVID-19 will spell the end of this phenomena, but men’s working hours actually increase when they become dads. It’s long been thought this is because men feel pressured to provide for their families and the one way you can do that is to work, work, work. 

If a child falls ill and gets sent home from school, dads find themselves under pressure. This is something I have personal experience of. I once received an email from my boss asking me to do everything I could to make sure I didn’t have to leave the office to look after my child in future. 

Flexible working is the answer

If I were a working mum reading this post, I may well be saying: “I face all these challenges too.” 

It’s important to recognise that working mums do indeed have to deal with these issues. The big difference? Flexible working is much more acceptable for women. Managers often receive training about the pressures mums face, but not the pressures working dads face. 

Flexible working can do so much to unleash the talent of both female and male workers. The good thing is that change is afoot. Younger men are demanding the right to work flexibly so they can better balance work and family. The stats released by Find Your Flex that I published in last month’s blog post show a surge of men looking for flexible job roles. 

I just hope this is a change we see continuing. Long term it will benefit everyone: Dads, mums, children and also employers. 

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Flexible Working

Flexible Working: Predictions For 2021

Since March of this year, we’ve seen a seismic shift in working culture courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic. Flexible and remote working have become the norm for many employers and employees. But what does 2021 hold for the future of flexible working? Here are our predictions for 2021.

Many jobs can be done on a flexible basis, that has been proven. Many mums and dads have benefitted from this. Without time spent commuting and with the help of Microsoft teams or Zoom, parents and carers have been around more for their children. 

Ian Dinwiddy, Inspiring Dads

Ian Dinwiddy is a man who knows a thing or two about the changes to working culture. He runs Inspiring Dads, a coaching service for men who want a better work life balance. Asked about the future of flexible working, he said: 

“Covid has exposed the myth that widespread remote and flexible work will be the death of business. There are challenges around wellbeing and connectivity. But, those firms who embrace the new normal will continue attract the best talent and break the paradigm of presenteeism.”

Ian Dinwiddy, Inspiring Dads

As Ian says, it seems hard to believe that we’ll ever go back to the traditional Monday to Friday nine to five job. A COVID-19 vaccine may make it more viable for employees to return to the workplace. However, will we return to pre-COVID-19 work patterns? I spoke to a few experts to find out what they think the future holds for flexible working.

Cheney Hamilton Of Find Your Flex

Where better to start than on your doorstep? I asked Cheney Hamilton, founder and Managing Director of Find Your Flex, DaddyJobs.co.uk’s parent company, what trends she was seeing. Buckle up, because the trends Cheney reports are staggering:

  • Male audience up by 47% in just 30 days
  • Spikes in the 25-34 and 45-45 age groups
  • A whopping 87% of users being ‘new’ as opposed to ‘returning’ visitors in the same period. Which Cheney said: “Shows active/new job seekers are in the ascendancy versus the ‘browsing’ job seekers.” 

Asked about whether more organsiations were advertising roles flexibly, Cheney said:

“We are seeing an increase in ‘non-traditional’ industries entering into the flexible working space. Moving away from White Collar office environments, into Engineering, Healthcare and Retailers.  We are also seeing a marked uptick in diversity and inclusion led flexible working briefs for roll out in 2021.”

Cheney Hamilton, The Find Your Flex Group

Interestingly, Cheney mentioned diversity and inclusion. Some groups, such as those in the disabled community, stand to gain if flexible working becomes the norm. Find Your Flex has been collecting data from users. It does indeed show that users are incredibly diverse. The audience is made up of a range of religious, educational and ethnic backgrounds to name just a few. 

Working Families

Working Families is a charity that promotes flexible working. Catherine Gregory, Head of Marketing and Communications. Asked if home working was likely to become permanent, Catherine said: 

“It’s clear that there’s no going back to business as usual after the massive shift to home working and flexible working precipitated by COVID-19. Employers have realised that many more jobs can be done on a flexible basis than they’d thought before.”

Catherine Gregory, Working Families

She added that productivity hadn’t “taken a hit,” something evidenced by charity’s recent employer member survey. Might we see working from home two or three days a week becoming the norm? 

Catherine said she hoped employers wouldn’t be too prescriptive as some people preferred office working, while others didn’t. 

“The important thing,” Catherine added, “is that employers are looking at outputs as opposed to time spent physically in the office.”

She added that when Working Families surveyed parents about their preferred working patterns, only 1% wanted no flexibility. She made the very important point that flexible working wasn’t simply about home working. It could mean part-time, compressed hours and so on.  

Han-Son Lee, Founder Of The DaddiLife Fatherhood Website

Han-Son said the initial lockdown allowed lots of new flexible working opportunities to emerge. However, whilst this is working well for most parents, he made the important point that maternity discrimination got worse. 

Looking forward, Han-Son believes that having been given a taste of what a flexibly working world could look like, parents will work together. 

“I believe what will start to evolve are ways by which parents can ally with one another. Ways they learn from each other and take the effective steps forward not as individuals but as a group. The world of ‘parenting and flexible working’ is a very different one to ‘non-parents and flexible working. Dads (and mums and carers) need to put strength in numbers behind their need and opportunity around flexible working. This will make for much more sustained change and underline the vast importance of proper flexible working beyond just Covid.”

Hanson Lee, DaddiLife

Some Striking Similarities

Based on what everyone said, some common themes definitely emerged. The culture of presenteeism will be consigned to history as managers focus on outputs and results, for example. 

Second, everyone was in agreement there will be no return to the old ways of working. The change has happened. Huge numbers of people use sites like DaddyJobs.co.uk to both find jobs or advertise roles shows that flexible working is here to stay. 

The challenge will be to ensure all groups, not just parents and carers, have access to flexible roles. It’ll therefore be interesting to see what the new year brings.  

Categories
Parenting

How To Build Your Own Daddy Support Community

A Daddy Support Community – It’s More valuable Than You May Think!

A little while ago, I was taking part in a panel discussion about flexible working. I was the only man on the panel. I found myself getting very frustrated with how the discussion was going.

Time and again the female panel members said it was important to have a network of friends to call upon for support. I should make clear that “friends” was code for “mum friends”. One of the panel said she was part of a WhatsApp group that featured 25 friends she called upon for help. Help such as picking kids up from school at the last minute, I simply had to respond. 

The microphone was passed to me. I made it absolutely clear that a dad could only dream of that level of support. I’ll paraphrase, but I said that what dads desperately need is “mum friends”. That mums needed to be more willing to mix with and support dads. Even if I say so myself, my comments caused a bit of a stir and I’m glad they did!

Issues For Dads. . . + What To Do About Them

When it comes to seeking support and help, dads face a few barriers. In this article, I’ll focus on two of the main ones.

First of all, men are often raised to be strong, silent, solitary types. They can feel awkward admitting they need help or someone to talk to. It can seem like weakness.

My advice to any dad is to smash this barrier down. You’ll need help and support and your children will throw unexpected curve balls at you. You can’t and shouldn’t be expected to deal with this on your own. Re-evaluate what you were taught about men and how they should behave when you were growing up. 

You are, after all, simply trying to care for your children. What could possibly be more masculine that that?

Second, informal support networks are often very mum-centric. Nursery groups, Parent Teacher Associations, school WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups can seem very mum-heavy. 

As a stay and work from home dad of many years standing, I’d say it’s imperative on you have a presence in these networks. Mums need to get used to dads being active in these groups. The only way that’ll happen is if dads engage with them and make a positive contribution. It can be lonely and it isn’t always easy, but it would be in your interests to get involved.

What Support Exists For Dads And How To Build Your Own Daddy Support Network?

Okay, so let’s take a look at what support does exist for dads. At the beginning of the parenting journey are National Childbirth Trust groups.

I personally found the support from the NCT limited. However, if you are willing to get together for coffee with the boys from your NCT group, I’d strongly recommend it. I often hear of mums meeting up with NCT mums years after giving birth. Why not dads too?

I’d also suggest getting in touch with your local Sure Start or health centre. In most localities you’ll find some kind of group for fathers. The group in my area was called Saturdads. As the name suggests, it gave dads a chance to mix and mingle with other dads and their kids on Saturday mornings.

Just one observation I’d make about these groups. They usually meet the needs of working dads. Saturdays are often ‘mum time’ in households like mine where dad does most of the childcare. Stay at home dads who look after the kids during the week, are unlikely to want to mingle with dads and other people’s kids at the weekend. 

This brings me nicely on to the subject of where at stay at home dads can look for support. Since the introduction of Shared Parental Leave in 2015, there’s been an increase in fathers undertaking the ‘at home’ role, albeit often for just a few months. Even if these men are only fulfilling the main carer role for a few months, they still need support.

Outside of the trendiest parts of East London, stay at home dad support is incredibly thin on the ground. You’re best heading online where you’ll find communities such as the UK At Home Dads Facebook group. This group, is a great resource and in the pre-COVID days, organising the occasional face-to-face meet up.

TheDadsNet also has a variety of online groups plus local groups run by volunteers across the country. It’s worth having a look to see if there is something in your area.

Daddy Support Community Apps

Over the past year, we have seen the launch of a couple of apps. These give dads a chance to meet like-minded people. These are for stay at home or working dads. DadApp is one such app while DadAF is another (just don’t ask what the F stands for). 

Online, Offline And A Little Dose Of Confidence

If you’re going to build a community you can call upon for dad support, it is likely to be a mix of online and offline communities. I’m afraid there is no escaping that mums do have more access to formal and informal support. But, if you look around, there are opportunities out there. I’d also say there the future looks rosier than it did when I became a dad over a decade ago. More recognition that dads need support exist and more has become available. Even if more is needed. 

You may need a little dose of confidence to meet with dads (…and mums) you’ve not spoken to before. If you can muster that confidence, you’ll find some great networks do exist. Don’t worry, everyone you speak to will have been in exactly the same position as you!

Daddy support is just as important as mum support.

Categories
Parenting Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave

The Benefits And Downsides Of Shared Parental Leave

Are you an expectant dad? If so, you are probably considering whether you should take Shared Parental Leave (SPL). 

Just in case you aren’t familiar with SPL, it’s a way of allowing parents to spend time at home following the birth of a child while also receiving some pay. These days parents get 50 weeks of leave that they can share between them following the arrival of a child (In shorthand, both parents could take six months of leave, or mum could take nine months and dad three months etc.).

Personally, I would encourage any dad to take SPL. It’s an awesome way to get to know your child and develop your fatherhood skills. Here are a few pros and cons to taking SPL that you should keep in mind.

Father And Child Form A Closer Bond

This is probably the most important point to keep in mind. Vast amounts of research has shown that a father who is involved with his child from day one forms a better bond with his child and stays involved, no matter what the future holds. Even if the parents get divorced in later life, a dad who has been hands on from the very start continues to play an important role in his offspring’s life. Taking SPL and spending time with your offspring in those very early days will have huge benefits for your relationship with your child and in turn, make the family happier.

You Are A Trailblazer

SPL has been around for a few years, but it’s still a relatively new concept. To some, the idea of a man looking after young children is revolutionary. Some people have never heard of SPL and take up of the leave among men is still quite low. As a result, dads who take SPL are real trailblazers. It shows you are serious about being an involved dad and you are taking advantage of a right that was denied to previous generations of men. Make the most of it!

Mum Benefits Too

The old paternity leave system simply assumed dad was only needed at home for a fortnight, after which mum could hop, skip and jump around the family home doing everything from breastfeeding to vacuuming the floor (…probably both at the same time). If you’ve ever lived with a woman who has given birth, you will know this is absolute rubbish! Two weeks is the absolute minimum most women need to recover. SPL gives dad the chance to be around for longer and help mum following the physical trauma of giving birth.

Mum’s Career Can Also Benefit

I think this is one of the most overlooked benefits of SPL. If both parents share SPL between them, mum no longer has to assume she’s got to take a year away from work because dad only gets two weeks paternity leave. Each parent could share six months of leave, reducing mum’s absence from the workplace. It also gives dad a greater chance to be active on the domestic front, lessening the childcare and housework burden on his partner.

Statutory Shared Parental Leave Pay Is Low

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Statutory Shared Parental Pay is not well paid. At the time of writing, the Government will only pay you £151.20 a week, or 90% of your salary (whichever is less). If you take SPL, you will probably need to watch your outgoings for a while. This brings me on to a slight anomaly in the SPL system. . . 

Women Are More Likely To Receive Enhanced Pay From Employers

It’s very common for employers to voluntarily pay new mums and dads a percentage of their salary while they are taking SPL. Only thing is, some employers will pay a dad just two weeks’ pay, whereas a mum may receive some kind of payment from their employer for months (this essentially replicates the old maternity / paternity pay system that existed before 2015). This is a major barrier to some men taking SPL as they can’t afford the drop in income. You need to check if your employer pays enhanced benefits and if so what you might expect to receive.

Final Words On Shared Parental Leave

If you would like to find out more about Shared Parental Leave and Pay, there’s plenty on the .GOV website. Please do also remember that SPL is your right as an employee so do not be shy of asking for it.

I will finish with a quote from Simon Hall, a Director of Corporate Finance at BDO LLP. Simon is a dad I spoke to when writing an article about SPL for my own blog. He had recently taken SPL himself following the arrival of his daughter Jessica. 

He gave me the most amazing quote summing up his experience. I hope you find it inspiring and seriously consider taking SPL yourself: 

“From a personal perspective, SPL meant we could both be around for some really key milestones, like hearing Jessica’s first words, helping her wean onto solid foods, and taking her to meet her extended family for the first time.”

Simon Hall, a Director of Corporate Finance at BDO LLP
Categories
Flexible Working

How Dads Can Get More Flexibility At Work?

Requesting Flexible Working

What is a dad to do if his employer does not have a culture that accepts men have families and caring responsibilities outside of the workplace? While times are changing, this is still a major issue. It’s not always an easy one to address because it can involve full-scale cultural change, but I’ve put forward a few ideas that fathers in the workplace may find helpful.

It Starts With The Application Process

Let’s start at the very beginning. Before you even apply for a job, look closely at the job advert. Does it make any mention about flexible working being encouraged? Prior to completing the application form, quiz the recruitment consultant about the company’s family friendly policies or call the HR department and have a quick chat.

Ask if the organsation pays paternity and maternity leave benefits at the same rate. Ask if it has written shared parental leave and paternity leave policies. If the answer to either of these questions is “no” then it’s a big warning sign.

I’ll tell you a story to demonstrate my point. I once went for a job interview and asked what benefits came with the job. I was being sly and testing the culture of the organisation. My eldest daughter was only one year old at the time and I was hoping the manager heading the panel would tell me about childcare vouchers or mention some family-friendly benefit or policy.

Instead he looked at his colleague, turned back to me and said: “You get a salary.”

It was a dreadful, condescending answer. It was immediately clear to me this manager was a dinosaur and that I could expect nothing in terms of balancing work and family. I wasn’t too upset when I didn’t get the job!

Flexible Working And Shared Parental Leave (SPL) Are Your Legal Right.

Do not think your employer is doing you a favour by agreeing to your request for SPL or flexible working. A lot of people, especially men, make this mistake. Remember, SPL is your legal right. Your right to request flexible working is also enshrined in law.

Be polite and put forward a strong business case. Look around your organisation and highlight examples where other people have worked flexibly or taken SPL. If a precedent has been set, it’s hard for your employer to turn you down.

It may also be that you’re merely the first man to ask for SPL or flexible working. You may feel nervous but discover that you’re blazing a trail and knocking at an open door!

Seek Support From Your Trade Union

If you are a trade union member and your workplace recognises your union, speak to your union representative. Managers are usually reluctant to pick fights with unions, especially over issues like SPL or flexible working which have a legal framework behind them.

Approaching things this way also means you are not on your own. You’ll have support from an organisation used to dealing with employee / employer disputes and successfully mediating between them.

Engage With Any Women’s Groups

If you are stuck with a management team that isn’t interested in your flexible working request or is doing all it can to put you off applying for SPL; seek help from any women’s groups within the workplace.

If there isn’t a women’s interest group (they are more common among big employers) try and find someone on the Staff Council or staff consultative body with an interest in issues affecting women in the workplace.

This may not sound like an obvious thing to do, but these groups can be incredibly powerful allies. They are in a strong position to point out to management that failing to provide male employees the same benefits and rights as women has a negative impact on both genders.

I’ll give you an example. I know of a FTSE 100 company that introduced equal paternity leave and pay because its women’s group campaigned for it. The group members recognised it was unfair men didn’t have the same rights and spoke up for their male colleagues. The result was a huge uptake in men taking SPL.

Be Clear About What You Are Requesting

Be clear about what you are requesting. If you are requesting to work from home two days a week, say so. If you plan to take four months SPL starting in March, make that clear. Your employer is much more likely to agree to a clear request as it’s easier form them to plan accordingly.

If you simply request to work flexibly or say you want to take SPL but you’re not sure what date you wish to take it from or for how long for, you can’t be too surprised if the answer comes back as a “no.” After all, how is an employer supposed to plan for such circumstances?

One other piece of advice is be flexible. You might want to work from home two days a week. But, what if your employer looks at your request and offers you three days home working every fortnight? Could you make that work? Be prepared to compromise as both you and your employer have different agendas.

Fathers In The Workplace Toolkit

Finally, if you think your employer might be receptive to the idea, introduce them to the Fathers in the Workplace Toolkit. This free resource is put together by researchers from the University of Birmingham.

It’s aim was to give employers and HR professionals easy-to-implement ideas that could make a workplace more father-friendly. You can read about it yourself – Fathers In The Workplace Toolkit. It suggests every employer should have a Fatherhood Champion. This would be someone who works flexibly and can be consulted about their experiences and explain its importance. It also says workplace parenting groups should be inclusive of fathers and suggests employees with children should have a ‘parenting passport.’ This is a document outlining a staff member’s home situation, shared privately between managers. It will help managers understand the needs of staff as they progress through an organisation.

Be Brave

We’ve all been in the position of asking for something from a boss, knowing the answer might not be the one we want. Employers have years of experience dealing with mums who work flexibly or go on extended leave following the birth of a child.

It’s a relatively new thing for both employers and employees when a man asks for SPL or to work flexibly. The only way it can be normalised is if men ask for SPL or flexi-working. The culture of your organisation may not have caught up with the times. The onus is on us men to bring about that change so be brave and speak to your boss. Oh, one final thing, very best of luck!

Interested in how covid is changing our working culture then you may want to read – Changes To Working Culture During Lockdown

Maybe you’d like to hear more about our DaddyJobs author John Adams.