It is not uncommon to hear about the difficulties that working mothers can experience when returning to work after maternity leave. What is less apparent are the struggles that can affect stay-at-home fathers re-joining the workforce after a career break.

The unfortunate truth is that prejudice can be experienced by both sexes who have chosen to take time out from their careers to raise a family.

With women historically being the primary stay-at-home carers, expectations tend to lie with them to continue to do so. And workplace stigmas can make it difficult for fathers who wish to support their family by taking reduced working hours or choosing to be the stay-at-home parent.

Specialist consultancy Flexology understand the issue. They are dedicated to improving flexible work opportunities. Director Kristal McNamara says:

“We often hear from fathers who want more flexibility in their roles. Currently, over 20 percent of our candidate database is made up of men who are looking to remain in, or return to, full-time roles – but who need flexibility. Some are leaving their employers as they don’t have the right balance for their family.

“There is sometimes stigma around fathers working flexibly, but there needn’t be. Most are looking for a small change that could make a big difference. We find that they usually want one of the following options: The ability to drop-off or pick-up their kids, compressed hours or remote work.

“Employers who get this right will end up with more loyal and committed – and therefore more productive – employees.”

Moving forward, employers can help to liberate fathers by making the transition back to work smooth and free of shame. And by doing so, they can show their support towards gender equality and a level playing field for parents. Read on for our top tips.

How can employers support fathers who are returning to work?

  1. Stay connected whilst they are away. If your employee plans to return to their role after a career break, you can arrange keep in touch days so that they feel connected to your business and up-to-speed on any major changes. We’d recommend keeping the number of stay-in-touch days relative to their time away from work, and at a pace agreed on by both you and your employee.
  2. Set up a return-to-work review programme. Like most employee reviews, this gives you the chance to monitor performance and productivity, whilst offering your employee the chance to speak up if they feel they could benefit from further support or training.
  3. Offer refresher training. Depending on the nature of your business and the skillset of your employee, refresher training can be a useful tool to bring an already-qualified person’s skillset up-to-date with any industry changes.
  4. Empower your employee. It is likely that your employee has perfected some skills whilst at home with the family. Organisation, time-keeping, management and multi-tasking to name a few. Don’t be afraid to discuss new responsibilities with a father returning to work. They may appreciate the opportunity to grow their role and you can both discuss positive changes moving forward.
  5. Give a dad a chance. If you are hiring a new employee that is perfect for the role but reveals they have some family commitments, see if you can make some adjustments with flexible working hours or company socials that can incorporate family members.

Family-friendly policies can be really beneficial for your recruitment and retention, and help to build a bank of good will among your workforce. For help devising one, call The HR Dept.

Alison Schreiber runs The HR Dept Durham and Darlington franchise, and works with a number of businesses across PBP. For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington or call Alison on 01325 526036 or 07535 853226.