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Fathers ramp up childcare hours during lockdown

PA Photo/iStock.

By Tess de la Mare
The amount of time fathers spend looking after their children has dramatically increased during lockdown.

Data from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that men’s childcare hours have increased by an average of 58% since the shutdown began on March 23.

The figures showed men’s weekly working hours – if their commute is included in the total – have fallen by 11% on average over the same period, or one hour and 37 minutes per day.

The data was based on a survey of 1,300 families between March 28 and April 26.

In 2015, men spent 39% of the time women spent on childcare, but during lockdown this rose to 66%.

Think tank the Fatherhood Institute has calculated that to maintain the current levels of childcare post-shutdown, fathers would have to find about eight hours of extra free time each week.

It suggested this could be achieved if they could cut down their commuting hours by working from home more, and also cut a couple of hours from their working week.

The Fatherhood Institute is now calling for the UK Government and employers to encourage more remote working and shorter hours for fathers.

It also wants to see training at all levels to ensure managers do not display unconscious bias towards male employees with carer responsibilities.

Adrienne Burgess, co-chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute, said: “The [UK] Government’s figures show that fathers, given shorter hours and more homeworking, dramatically increase their contribution to childcare.

“It’s time to end workplace discrimination against involved fatherhood so that dads can play their part as they wish to – and will do.”

Mark Gatto, a university researcher who has been primary caregiver for his 15-month-old child since lockdown started, said: “As a relatively new father, trying to balance work and childcare has been a steep learning curve, but this time has given me time to bond that I would never have had.

“Spending extended time with my child has reinforced how much I want to stay fully involved in their life and get the balance right as a family beyond the lockdown.”

Previous research has show that pre-lockdown, fathers’ requests for flexible working were refused by employers at almost twice the rate of requests from mothers.

Fathers who asked to work part-time were judged by managers to be less committed to their jobs than mothers who asked for the same, making them afraid to ask for flexible working.

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