I started MusicFootballFatherhood as a kind of self therapy, an outlet to express my thoughts after becoming a new dad. Never in a million years did I think it would take me to Parliament and to putting on an awards show with University of Birmingham to celebrate employers who are supporting dads.

When my wife and I were going through our difficult period as new parents, I needed my workplace to be supportive. And they were. I know how important employers are to shaping the lives of families. This is important work. Real work.

On Tuesday 24th May 2022 we held the inaugural Working Dads Employer Awards and for me it was one of the best professional days of my life. The awards was an idea I had late last year in 2021 with the aim of celebrating some of the employers that are doing good work to support working dads and amplify their work to share best practise with other organisations who are looking for innovative ways to support dads. To see it come to life and be so successful has been overwhelming and humbling.

Developing the awards with the University of Birmingham

Working with the University of Birmingham to put the awards together has been an absolute pleasure. Together we make a great team. Sam Draper and I from the MFF team bring the view from dads as a peer support organisation that champions equal parenting and works with organisations on culture change and Dr Sarah Forbes and Dr Holly Birkett from the University of Birmingham bring the research and policy expertise.

I also have to give a massive shoutout to our partners who were instrumental in the judging process, ensuring the nominations process was credible and that different views and perspectives were taken into account while assessing applications.

We initially reached out to the potential partners at the beginning of 2022 and we weren’t sure what the response would be. But they all said yes! Thank you so much to The CBI, Future Men, Business In The Community, Working Families, Fatherhood Institute, Pregnant Then Screwed, Global Equality Collective and The Women’s Medical Federation. These are all fantastic organisations who are helping to lead the way to create change, improve support for working parents, redefine what it means to be a dad and achieve true gender equality at home and in the workplace.

Why supporting working dads to be active parents at home is important

Supporting working dads is absolutely essential to creating well-functioning societies, businesses and families. I am personally very happy to see more work being done in recent years to look at fatherhood experiences at work, assess how we can close the care gap, redefine gender based parenting roles and change attitudes around what it means to be a man and a dad. We’ve all come a long way in recent years and this has been accelerated by the pandemic, but there is much more work to do to get to where we need to be.

Supporting working dads and promoting equal parenting is essential to workplace gender equality, increasing women’s representation at senior levels and eradicating the motherhood penalty.

The large disparity in the gender pay gap comes about when the first baby is born into a family and for us to address this, we need to support and encourage dads to share the load in the months and years after their baby is born. This can be achieved through good parental leave policies and flexible working. Importantly, this needs to be underpinned and led from the top, with leadership that create and nurture a culture where all fathers are encouraged and supported to be active parents at home.

Supporting working dads is also essential to improving mental health and wellbeing. We know 10% of new dads will suffer from some symptoms of post-natal depression in the first 6 months of becoming a new father and 39% of expectant dads are concerned about their mental health. The opportunity for a father to be at home to bond with their new baby and support their partner is integral to maintaining mental health, wellbeing and relationships. And it’s not just in the first year that fathers need support, research tells us that parents will experience more mental health problems than non-parents.

Supporting working dads also has huge implications for the outcomes for our children. The research shows us that consistent and nurturing paternal involvement results in better outcomes in regards to children’s resilience, education and wellbeing.

The world has changed and being a progressive employer that supports working dads is becoming increasingly important for keeping and attracting talented staff. The trend we are seeing is that parents are increasingly looking for support from their employer to help them balance caring and work responsibilities. Research from Working Families showed that one in three working parents are looking to share care more equally in the future. And BITC’s Equal Lives report in 2018 found that one in six dads had moved jobs or organisations to get better support for their caring responsibilities.

Increasingly, employer brand is becoming more important as consumers make spending decisions based on whether the organisations values align with their own. In this modern climate of consumer power and a conscious spending, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become pivotal. Employers need to publicly show how they are contributing to building a sustainable and fair society to compete in an ever-evolving marketplace.

When employers put in place policies and practices to support working dads, it’s really important to consider intersectionality. The recent Business In The Community ‘Who Cares’ report highlights the additional barriers that caring poses to progression and promotion in the workplace if you are from a Black, Asian and Minority background. These barriers will also be felt if you are from a lower socio-economic background, are a single parent or a parent of a child with a disability or neurodiversity. The layering of these characteristics is important to recognise and we all need to consider how we help those who need it most.

The Working Dads Employer Awards aim to highlight the employers that are showing leadership and being proactive in supporting working dads. Our aim is to share the work they are doing to help other employers do the same. When it comes to solutions that work, these will often have to be tailored to the individual organisations context but there are principles and practises that are true and effective across the board. Over the next couple of months we will be developing case studies that showcase the award winners and highlight the work they have been doing.

An employer that creates a family friendly environment and supports working dads will benefit from improved workplace gender equality and a decreased gender pay gap, more healthy, present and productive employees through improved mental health, an increase in retention rates and recruitment of sought after talented staff and an improved employer brand through contributions to building a fair and sustainable society.

The Working Dads Employer Awards ceremony

The Working Dads Employer Awards inaugral ceremony took place in Parliament on Tuesday 24th May. We had the amazing and influential Anna Whitehouse (Mother Pukka) co-hosting alongside Andrew Gwynne MP (chair of the Fatherhood APPG).

Elliott addressing the audience at the Working Dads Employer Awards in Parliament

The turnout was brilliant, it was packed! And the vibe was perfect, it felt like a real celebration. I said in my speech at the event that the people in the room were part of the group that’s going to lead us into the future and I can’t thank everyone one of you enough for coming out and supporting. In the room we had broadcasters, MPs, staff working parents network chairs, HR leaders, campaigners, podcasters, coaches and charities.

It was a room full of love, excitement, optimism and a shared understanding of the work we need to do to support working dads and create family friendly organisations.

The audience looking for the selfie frame at the Working Dads Employer Awards!

After the main ceremony we had so much fun taking pictures with the Working Dads Employer Awards selfie frame (you may have seen some of the pictures floating around on Linkedin!).

To everybody that attended, I can’t put into words my gratitude. There are too many names to mention, thank you for doing the work you do ❤

Which employers won an award and what did they win for?

The Working Dads Employer Awards have four categories that recognise the holistic support needed to support working dads across their whole journey as fathers. The four categories are:

  • Flexible Working
  • Support for Returning Fathers
  • Leadership and Culture
  • Parental Leave policies

Flexible Working award

The Flexible Working Award, presented to Now Teach and Suffolk County Councilcelebrates organisations that are not simply ticking the box when they talk about or implement flexible working but rather see flexible working as central to what they do and the default in their business and are striving to make this accessible to working Dads.

Suffolk County Council collecting their Flexible Working Award

Support for Returning Fathers award

The Supporting Returning Dads Award, presented to John Lewis, Suffolk County Council and Vodafone, celebrates the importance of actively managing fathers transition back into the workplace after long periods of caring leave to help them manage work-life balance and keep their careers on track.

Vodafone collecting their Support for Returning Fathers award

Leadership and Culture Award

The Leadership and Culture Award, presented to Aon, recognises supportive workplace culture with broad leadership teams committed to supporting Dads at work and challenging cultural expectations that only mothers can engage in childcare.

Aon have introduced an innovative Dads@Aon initiative which encourages dads to meet and talk about the challenges they experience. The group values intersectionality and is sponsored by an executive level champion.

Aon collecting their Leadership & Culture award

Parenting Policies Award

The Parenting Policies Award, presented to Aviva, John Lewis, Nationwide, Suffolk County Council, Vodafone and Waltham Forest Council celebrates organisations who excel in enhancing their parenting policies and encouraging fathers to use these policies.

Some examples of good work from the award winners includes equal parenthood policies where dads get 6 months paid paternity leave (4 months fully paid), compassionate leave for parents who experience baby loss and delayed paternity leave for dads who have premature babies.

Waltham Forest collecting their Parenting Policies award

The case studies and next steps 

Celebrating the employers doing work to support working dads is just one function of the awards. The other is to amplify their work and share best practise to encourage other employers to do the same. We will be producing a series of video case studies to share the details of the work these employers have done across the four categories.

We will also be building on the awards to make them bigger and better next year, judging by the interest and attendance at the inaugural award ceremony, I think we’ll need a bigger room next time! We hope to get even more nominations for the 2023 awards and to see more innovative approaches to supporting working dads.

How I can support your organisation to support working dads

Hearing from dads is so important, engaging them in conversations about their needs, attitudes and wants. I can help create an open culture around speaking about fatherhood. So important to have open conversations, deeper level of vulnerability. Link to the engaging dads workshop.

My work is all about presenting new ideas, creating inclusive environments for open conversations and being a catalyst for culture change. I love to challenge internalised beliefs and highlight how we are all capable and responsible for change. I specialise in supporting dads in the workplace, redefining masculinity, allyship, dad’s and men’s mental health, gender equality, inclusive relationships and creating family friendly workplaces and communities.

I frequently work with HR leads, staff parenting networks, gender networks, D&I teams and leadership teams through workshops and keynotes. I pride myself on providing an excellent service and tailoring my work to provide unique solutions to help address your objectives.

All my sessions are emotive, raw, and powerful. They are grounded in personal stories while incorporating the latest research, data and best practise. I use slido, Q&A and panel discussions to ensure my sessions are interactive and immersive. This is all packaged up in a friendly, personable and relaxed approach with a nice sprinkle of humour.

To help support you to see the culture change you desire, my sessions are supported with carefully crafted communications materials to set the tone for the events and encourage participation before the event. And post-event, I provide toolkits to support team-level conversations using content and outputs from the workshop to facilitate further conversations and embed culture change.

I am all about helping you to achieve your objectives, whether that be launching your parenting network, supporting your colleagues mental health and wellbeing, engaging more men in your DEI and gender equality work, building an inclusive culture with allyship at the core or helping senior leaders to foster more inclusive relationships.

Find out more here