In autumn, we asked working parents how well they felt they were managing work and life. Their responses made the headlines when they were published last month, with working fathers highlighting a risk in creating a ‘fatherhood penalty’.

The ‘penalty’ is not an unfamiliar term. Women who have become mothers are frequently cited to be facing a ‘motherhood penalty’ – whereby they move into lower paid and lower quality roles because they have become mothers. However, the research indicates that this is also a possibility for fathers who are increasingly seeking to take an active part in childcare:

  • 47% of fathers agree they would downshift into a less stressful job
  • 8 out of 10 mothers and 7 out of 10 fathers agree they would assess childcare before taking a new job or promotion
  • 46% of millennial fathers would take a pay-cut to achieve a better work-life balance

Modern Fathers 2017 Infographic

Now in its third edition, the annual Modern Families Index, published by Working Families and Bright Horizons, provides a snapshot into the lives of working families from across the UK with at least one dependent child aged 13 or younger. It highlights the challenges and aspirations of modern family life and recommendations for the future.

So, what else did the Modern Families Index tell us?

Time is a luxury

In addition to dads feeling the pressure juggling career aspirations and family life, parents overall are also feeling family time squeezed, with only a third of parents leaving work on time every day. In fact, almost three-quarters work from home in the evening and at weekends, identifying a clear pattern which is not sustainable. One in five is also putting in an extra 5 weeks a year – the equivalent of their annual holiday allowance.

Work/life balance is a costly challenge

Whilst parents are struggling, the Modern Families Index also told us employers are feeling the impact too. Over a third of parents would consider using annual leave to support with family responsibilities rather than to relax, whilst a quarter consider taking sick leave and cutting back their hours. To top it off, 1 in 10 parents would consider resigning from work without having another job to go to.

With the average cost of replacing a member of staff estimated to be £30,000[1], retaining talented employees is a high priority.

Moving in the right direction: what the future holds for modern workplaces

An important part of this year’s Modern Families Index is the view from working parents that employers who afforded them a good work/life balance would benefit from more loyal, motivated and productive employees. Employers were also in agreement, with 100% of employers reporting that work/life solutions for employees has improved the work/life balance of their employees and over 80% say it’s improve retention[2].

“We thrive and falter dependent on how the relationships between family, work, time, money, and health are managed”, said Bright Horizons Director of Employer Partnerships, Denise Priest.

“Today’s working families are trying to do it all – let’s help them thrive while doing so.”



[1] The Cost of Brain Drain, Oxford Economics, February 2014

[2]Client Survey 2016, Bright Horizons