Fathers & paid work

An on-line EEO Trust survey in 2003 asked fathers how workplaces could support them to be the fathers they want to be. Nearly 1200 fathers completed the survey.

Download the complete toolkit (67k pdf) >>
Download the research report (50k Word doc) >>
Read the media release >>

This toolkit aims to help workplaces survey and assess their current work-life balance strategies and whether these cater to the needs of fathers within their organisations.

Enabling fathers to better balance their family and work commitments can improve an organisation's ability to recruit and retain skilled people, and help build a loyal and productive workforce.

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What Kiwi fathers want from workplaces

Eighty per cent of fathers who responded to the EEO Trust survey said they would like to spend more time with their families, especially their children.

Working fathers' patterns of parenting are often different from those of working mothers and many workplace work-life policies do not meet their needs. Fathers are more likely to be involved in specific events such as sports at schools rather than more continuous care such as taking time off work to care for sick children.

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Diverse caring responsibilities

The EEO Trust survey found that fathers and their fathering responsibilities are diverse. These differences impact on fathers' experience of work and the use of workplace work-life policies.

Fathers may:

  • be from a variety of ethnic groups
  • be parenting babies, young children, teenagers or young adults
  • have a disabled child or be disabled themselves
  • have dependent elderly parents or relatives
  • be gay, transexual or heterosexual
  • be a lone parent or sharing care with a former partner
  • live in an extended or multiple generational family
  • have a blended family
  • be in a two income or sole income family
  • work part or full time
  • be working in more than one job
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Finding work-life balance

Many workplace situations or conditions can negatively impact on some fathers' ability to balance their work and family lives.

Working hours

Long hours, shift work, lack of flexibility of hours, compulsory overtime, fixed start and finish times, unpredictable hours.

Travel requirements

Frequent travel away from home, distance and travel time to and from work.

Location of work

Lack of flexibility to work from home occasionally


The intrusion of technology into home time (cellphones, laptops etc)

Unsupportive work cultures

Workplaces that have a positive work culture allow fathers to be involved in their family's responsibilities and celebrations. Workplaces that do not role model effective work-life balance and do not encourage employees to use work-life initiatives, impact on fathers' abilities to support their work and family commitments. Many fathers have a perception that using work-life initiatives could damage their career prospects and that balancing work and family is seen as a mother's issue. They also believe that part-time work is not an option as it takes time off career tracks.

Low uptake of work-life provisions by fathers

Fathers seem less aware of the work-life options available to them at work. They fear losing their job or being seen as not "committed" if they take up work-life provisions. Many believe that it is easier for mothers to take advantage of work-life initiatives.

 Click here for a parental leave calculator that can tell you what you are entitled to. 

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The effects of poor work-life balance

Poor work-life balance affects workplaces, employees and their families. It contributes to lower productivity and increased staff turnover.

Impacts on the workplace

  • increased tendency to make mistakes
  • stress impacts at work
  • staff turnover
  • low staff morale
  • increased use of sick leave

Impacts on fathers

  • stress
  • tiredness
  • ill health
  • not being available for family emergencies/events
  • feeling guilty
  • conflict at home

Impacts on families

  • conflict in marital relationship
  • one partner shouldering all the responsibility
  • lack of family time


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Suggested work-life initiatives

The research found that changes could be made in four workplace domains to assist men to be the sort of fathers they want to be.

Flexible working hours

  • flexibility to use small amounts of time to meet the demands of events/emergencies
  • flexible start and finish times
  • reduced hours
  • modelling of reasonable hours by senior staff
  • compressed working weeks
  • review shift work schedules with staff

Flexible work location

  • support working from home on occasions or for part of the week

Technology and home time

  • create protocols around interruptions or availability during home time
  • use technology to support working from home

Changes to work culture

  • ensure information about work-life policies reach fathers as well as mothers. Consider how and what is communicated; men respond well to information in electronic form.
  • check that work-life policies will meet the needs of working fathers
  • encourage senior male staff to model work-life balance
  • monitor uptake of work-life policies and provisions by gender
  • ensure that part-time work is not being marginalised in terms of career prospects
  • encourage managers, colleagues and work teams to support fathers' work-life balance
  • ensure management accountability for successful implementation of work-life policies.
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What do fathers in your workplace want?

To ensure employees who are fathers feel supported at work, the first step is to find out what they need and if your current work-life initiatives are helping them at work and at home. This section includes ideas on finding out what the situation is for fathers in your workplace.

Before you start researching your staff

It is important to communicate clearly with your employees from the start of the research procedure to ensure they (men and women) know what you are doing and why.

Suggested steps to take when you begin the research process:

  • determine what research method is appropriate for your organisation
  • set timelines; tell staff in advance how and when they will hear about the results and make sure you follow up
  • ask for positive and negative feedback
  • remind staff what initiatives are available to them
  • be realistic and do not over-promise; you are not committing to acting on every suggestion
  • communicate; some suggestions may take longer to implement so it provide progress reports
  • be consistent; if you promise confidentiality ensure it happens
  • monitor whatever you put in place as a result of the research.

You may decide to use the questionnaire or the checklist tool below to research your organisation. Your decision on which resource tool to use may be influenced by the size of your organisation or work team, the gender breakdown of employees, the ways you normally communicate with your staff and if you already use a staff survey tool.

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Using questionnaires to research your workplace

This survey method may be appropriate where the organisation or work unit is large, confidentiality is important, employees are not comfortable with face to face discussions, or where written literacy is reasonably high.

The questionnaire is designed in modules and you may not need to use them all. You may want to adapt the questions or add others. You are likely to want to change the language to suit your workplace and to choose electronic or hard copy distribution to best suit your organisation.

If you already use climate survey or exit questionnaires, you may want to consider adding some of these questions to your existing process.

Download the fathers and paid work sample questionnaire (Word doc 66K)

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Using discussion checklists to research your workplace

This research method may be appropriate where the organisation or work unit is small, communication is generally less formal, people prefer to talk rather than write, and there are clear opinion leaders in the organisation.

You can adapt these checklists to use in:

  • focus groups
  • discussions at a staff meeting or tea break
  • interviews for key people or opinion leaders.

The prompts under the topics are designed to assist the discussion. They are suggestions only. You may need to change the language to suit your organisation.

Download the fathers and paid work sample checklist (Word doc 26K)