Fathers’ parental leave is also a good thing for the workplace

Press release, 31st March 2016, Helsinki, Finland

One consequence of fathers not taking up parental leave is that practices to promote the work/family balance may not be developed at workplaces that are male dominated. If family-related absences were more equally divided between men and women, it would have a positive effect on work life in general. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), together with the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Gender Equality Unit of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, encourage fathers to take parental leave and share child care responsibilities more equally with mothers. 

According to a survey carried out by FIOH, employees are able to successfully balance work and other areas of life in three quarters of Finnish workplaces. However, the situation is not as good in male-dominated workplaces as it is in those in which women form the majority. 

“It seems that as long as family-related absences fall mainly on women’s shoulders, the development of family-friendly practices will not be taken seriously at workplaces,” says Senior Specialist Salla Toppinen-Tanner from FIOH. “Parental leaves are not only an equality issue; when everyone’s effort and skills are put to use, it affects the functionality and feasibility of work life in general.” 

Equally divided parental leaves is in the workplace’s best interest

Workplaces benefit from family-friendly culture and practices. Individual flexible working time and work task arrangements, supervisor’s support, and positive attitudes reduce the conflicts between work and other areas of life, and improve well-being at work.  The positive effects on the workplace can be seen through reduced costs and improved results. Toppinen-Tanner is convinced that male-dominated workplaces would also benefit from increased use of parental leaves, if these practices were facilitated: “Work motivation and efficiency may improve because of parental leave, and the well-being of an employee’s family is reflected at the workplace in the long run. Everybody benefits when a change in family conditions does not mean having to change jobs.”  

Importance of supervisor attitudes and equality

Although Finnish workplaces already have a great deal of flexible working time arrangements in place, the actual use of these arrangements needs to be optimized. A common complaint is that family-friendly practices are unequally distributed within the workplace. FIOH’s survey found that less than half of workplaces sufficiently inform supervisors and staff of the practices. Of male-dominated workplaces, 60% inform their employees poorly. When a workplace’s practices are known, it is easier to offer them to employees.

Even effectively informing employees of these practices is not enough if attitudes are negative. Although methods vary depending on the nature of the work, family-friendliness can also be promoted at male-dominated workplaces, as can the message that the effect of employees’ private lives on their work ability is understood. Toppinen-Tanner encourages workplaces to change their cultures:  “The barrier to bringing up fathers’ family leaves for discussion can be lowered by role models: fathers could, for example, bring in their babies to work to show them to their colleagues, just as mothers do.”

Tools for optimizing family-friendly practices through supervisor training

Together with the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Gender Equality Unit of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, FIOH is carrying out a project called Visible fathers: recognizing fathers’ care responsibilities at workplaces in 2016‒2018. The project is funded by the EU Commission’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) programme. The aim is to get more fathers to take up parental leave and to share child care responsibilities with mothers.

Through the project, FIOH offers workplaces the possibility to train supervisors to more effectively use family-friendly practices. The training provides supervisors with knowledge, and they are able to share their experiences of the challenges that they face in their own everyday supervisory work. “Experience has shown that peer support is important for supervisors, and this is offered in the group through solution-orientated working methods. By resolving real situations faced by supervisors we are collecting a checklist for the workplaces’ own use, which will make supervisors’ work easier,” says Toppinen-Tanner.

Project's webpage


Further information

Salla Toppinen-Tanner

Chief Specialist, Subproject Manager

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

Tel. +358 46 851 2517, firstname.surname@ttl.fi

Johanna Lammi-Taskula

Project Manager

National Institute for Health and Welfare

Tel. +358 29 524 7066, firstname.surname@thl.fi

National Institute for Health and Welfare, research:

Johanna Närvi

Tel. +358 29 524 7467, firstname.surname@thl.fi

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, awareness-raising campaign:

Päivi Yli-Pietilä

Tel. +358 29 516 2517, firstname.surname@stm.fi

Media Services

Kristiina Kulha, Head of Communications
FIOH, Helsinki
Tel. +358 30 474 2551, +358 40 548 6914, 
kristiina.kulha[at]ttl.fi

Tiina Kaksonen, Communications Assistant 
FIOH, Oulu
Tel. +358 30 474 3015, +358 50 364 3158
tiina.kaksonen[at]ttl.fi

www.ttl.fi

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) researches, develops and specializes in well-being at work. It promotes occupational health and safety and the well-being of workers. It is an independent institution under public law, working under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. FIOH has six regional offices, and its headquarters are in Helsinki. Fifty per cent of its funding comes from the state budget. 

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