Paula Cunnington: What more should employers be doing to support working fathers?

Last year, when we introduced 20 weeks of enhanced shared parental pay at Dentsu Aegis Network to match our maternity and adoption offering, we knew not much would change in the short term. We wanted to do the right thing and set a positive example in the media and advertising industry by enhancing shared parental pay across all 22 businesses within our growing group. But we were also aware that the financial impact would be small, certainly in year one.

Businesses and society as a whole need to go through a huge cultural transformation before fathers and co-parents feel confident to take advantage of these benefits. That is why we are challenging 50 fathers and co-parents to take shared parental leave this year.

As businesses continue to invest in retaining more of their talented mums and primary adopters, fathers and co-parents can get left behind. It is often overlooked that their life has been transformed too, with sleepless nights and the pressures and distractions that come with parenthood. Organisations must invest in supporting their people through various career and life events; whether that is a promotion, a relocation, or becoming a parent. For fathers and co-parents that means specific support and coaching tools tailored to their needs.

This is vital from a wellbeing point of view and maximises an employee’s chance of success; a clear mutual benefit shared with employers. It also signals that it is not only acceptable to take advantage of benefits like paid parental leave, but encouraged. If you build it, they will come. Importantly, supporting working fathers also has a positive impact on long-term gender equality, because we will never achieve true equality in the workplace until home life is more balanced and equal too.

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At Dentsu Aegis, this will be a key part of our inclusion agenda and people plan in 2017 and beyond.

Paula Cunnington is HR director, UK and Ireland at Dentsu Aegis Network