Why men should consider flexible work

by Liz Marchant

According to recent ABS statistics, one in 20 Australian dads are now taking the primary parental leave.

The days of men being breadwinners and women being homemakers are long gone and, consequently, the role of men in the family has changed dramatically too. This means that men now face the same work-life balance conflict as women.

Unfortunately, while women have made progress towards achieving this, it’s often hard for men who fear that requesting reduced or flexible hours will make them appear less committed to their job, or make them less likely to receive a promotion or salary increase. While it’s widely accepted that working mums will request flexibility to manage their dual roles, it isn’t yet so commonplace for men. However, encouragingly, the tide is turning in corporate Australia.

On December 1 2018, the Fair Work Commission introduced new rules around requests for flexible work. These stated that any permanent employee who has worked with the same company for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they are a parent, or have responsibility for the care of a child who is school-aged or younger, among other things. What’s more, any employer who refuses a request for flexible working arrangements would have to justify why they’ve made that decision. If an employee feels their case has not been properly considered, they can appeal this decision. Importantly, the wording of the legislation doesn’t limit its application to either gender.

Making flexibility work for you

How you make this work for you, as a dad juggling work and family life, will depend on your partner’s work commitments (if you have one), your role in taking care of your children, and obviously your work requirements. Some options include:

  • Going part-time. When both you and your partner work four days a week, it opens up new opportunities for sharing time with your children. (Check out our interview with Arlene Kristianto, who has chosen this path with her husband. By taking a different day off each, they only require three days of childcare and both have a full day with their two young children every week.)
  • Starting early and finishing early while your partner starts late and finishes late (or vice versa). This is a great option if you both want to work five days a week and still manage the childcare or school drop-off and pick-up.
  • Working from home one or two days a week. This might let you do things such as attending important school events.
  • Job sharing. If your job requires you to be on site all day every day (for example, if you’re a dentist, doctor, or train driver with set hours), then you could consider job sharing.

One of the biggest challenges in establishing flexible work practices is talking to your employer and team members so they understand your flexibility requirements and give you the support you need. If having this conversation sounds tough, check out our story here on ‘understanding how to approach your employer about flexible work’.

The more men who request flexible work, especially in senior roles where you help to set the tone for the rest of the company, the better. You, your partner, your kids, and other working dads in your company will all thank you for it.