Diversity & Inclusion

Fathers and flexibility: green shoots of positive change

This Father’s Day, we talk to FlexCareers co-founder and father of three Joel McInnes about why there’s never been a better time to be a father.

Fathers and flexibility: green shoots of positive change Joel McInnes FlexCareers

This Father’s Day, we talk to FlexCareers co-founder and father of three Joel McInnes about why there’s never been a better time to be a father, how having kids changed his work life priorities and what more he thinks needs to be done to normalise flexibility for everyone.

How much progress do you see being made for fathers in the workplace when it comes to flexibility?

Thankfully flexible work for fathers is becoming more acceptable. It’s still early days, but we’re definitely seeing green shoots of positive change. Even though there’s more work to be done, I believe there’s never been a better time to be a father. In many families both parents are now genuinely able to contribute equally to their children’s upbringing.

Flexibility leaders such as Lion have adopted all-roles-are-flexible policies. And more and more organisations like Diageo are offering equivalent parental leave for both men and women.

Not only do we know men want flexibility, but we know why too. Our Annual Workplace Flexibility Report 2019 found the top two reasons why are to improve work life balance and also improve mental wellbeing. Essentially, you can boil the data down into one central idea – men as much as women desire flexible work as a way to improve personal wellness.

What are your own personal experiences of juggling fatherhood and work?

I spent the first part of my career in investment banking where flexible work wasn’t even on my radar. You don’t miss what you don’t know and I was happy working crazy hours. I was married but didn’t have kids at that time.

But having a family certainly changes your priorities. You want to spend time with your children, build strong relationships and be there for them when they need you. Flexible work for me is about fitting work in around what really matters – my family. I can now have breakfast with my kids and take them to school. I now start work later in the morning but I’m happy to catch up once they’re in bed.

Is there still a huge discrepancy between the way mothers and fathers are treated by employers? 

Yes, there is. But that’s not surprising given the two main drivers of this discrepancy – historical context and attitudes, and government policies. The main government parental leave scheme for fathers for example only provides two weeks off at minimum wage. Achieving a 50:50 split of caring in aggregate may be an unrealistic societal goal but when only one in 20 dads takes primary parental leave there’s still a lot more to be done.

Not only that but the current system sees women 20 times more likely to miss out on both a year’s worth of earnings and also a year of superannuation. To bring the average woman’s final super balance up to the same level as her average male equivalent, we somehow need to increase it by 72%.

How far have we come from the early days of flex when the conversation was purely about return to work mums?

When Marko and I started FlexCareers, the flexibility conversation with employers was all about women. That’s changed. Now it’s flexibility for everyone – gender is only one of a number of issues driving it.

And finally, what more do you think needs to be done to normalise flexibility in the workplace?

There’s no silver bullet. It’s like the old question of how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We need a portfolio approach that sees flexibility as part of D&I, wellbeing and the future of work.

And we need to move away from the perception that flexibility is just a nice thing to do towards more hard dollar cost benefit analyses. We need to let data inform our strategies and turn solutions into tight business cases. Ultimately the financial productivity benefits of flexibility in addition to the wellness benefits – for organisations and individuals regardless of gender – are huge.

Thanks Joel and we hope you had a fab Father’s Day.


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