Adjusting to life as a full-time working parent is tough. Individually, the two roles are difficult enough. But there often needs to be changes on both employee and employer sides to make the two roles work together. At a time of such huge change, the mental health pressures can be intense.
By law, partners of the birthparent have a legal right to one or two weeks of leave following the birth of their child. That’s if they’ve worked for 26 weeks up until the “qualifying week” (15th week before the baby is due).
This leave must be taken in either a block of one week or two weeks together. Meaning, if they only take one week of leave, they lose the entitlement to the other week. And if they want to take the full two weeks, they have to be taken consecutively.
The leave must also be used within 56 days of the birth (or due date if the baby is early).
Lots of co-parents don’t take paternity or shared parental leave, for a variety of reasons. This could include concerns that taking leave will have a negative impact on their career i.e. managers overlooking them for a pay rise or promotion, fears of colleagues marginalising or mocking them for taking paternity leave, or “deeply ingrained gender cultural stereotypes”.
But all working parents need support.
So, how can employers support new dads and help make the transition back to work that little bit easier? Kayleigh Frost, Head of Clinical at Health Assured, shares her top tips.
Offer flexible working
Offering flexible working can be a big help. You could allow your employee to work from home on a hybrid or full-time basis, after a temporary trial. You could also adjust their start and finish times, so they can start and finish work earlier or later.
This flexibility around working hours may allow the working parent to balance work around childcare and catch up on much-needed sleep in those early days post-birth
It may also help with a healthier work-life balance even just for a limited time while they adjust to their new normal.
Parenthood is life-changing and new dads may need more support than they’re letting on, which is why it’s important to talk.
Your employee might not want to approach you about any struggles if they worry about judgment from others or want to appear like they ‘have it all under control’.
That’s why you should make the first move. Check in with your employees when they come back from paternity or shared parental leave. Learn how they’re coping. Find out if they need any extra support from you.
Raise awareness around men’s mental health
One in four men experience mild depression in the first year of becoming a parent. According to Hodkinson and Das, men are often under pressure “to provide rock-like support for their partner” while also suppressing their own emotions. And many men don’t reach out for help until they reach breaking point.
If you have a mental health first aider in your workplace, make sure employees know who they are and how to reach them. And if you have an employee assistance programme (EAP), make sure they know how to access it.
Provide financial support
Sometimes, financial worries can exacerbate mental health issues. Raising a child is expensive and new parents will likely be juggling rising costs alongside everything else. Financial pressures are one of the main causes of men’s mental health issues, with many suffering in silence.
Offering schemes to help with childcare costs can help relieve some of this pressure for new dads / parents. Make sure to clearly outline any financial benefits in your family leave policies.
Champion working dads in your workplace
There are other steps that management can take to ensure a family friendly workplace, such as having robust family leave policies, signposting employees to family information services and encouraging open discussions in the workplace.
Make sure that employees understand their legal rights, such as the right to statutory paternity or shared parenting leave/pay. If you offer enhanced pay for family leave, then state it clearly in your contracts.
It’s up to all employers to help tackle the stigma around mental health, especially for men who can be more reluctant to speak out. Make sure employees have someone to talk to and are understanding and considerate of the difficulties others may be facing.
Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.