Scotland politics

Fathers should get same right to flexible hours, say MSPs

Father and baby Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Fathers often felt "marginalised" in the parenting of children, according to a committee of MSPs at Holyrood

Fathers should have the same access to NHS parenting classes and the same right to flexible working hours as mothers, MSPs have advised.

Dads are being discouraged from attending prenatal and postnatal classes and support groups, Holyrood's equal opportunities committee said.

Their report also challenged the perception that "parenting is solely a mother's job".

The Scottish government said it would work to make progress on the issue.

The committee heard evidence from a range of fathers from different backgrounds and its report found many felt "marginalised" by society.

It said the fathers they heard from believed their involvement in child rearing should be the norm.


The committee's report commended the Scottish government for taking steps to address the lack of imagery of fathers in its literature and guidance, but said more could be done.

Convener Margaret McCulloch MSP said: "We heard from so many fathers who wanted to take an active part in their children's lives but who felt marginalised by society right at the start of their role in being discouraged from attending pre and postnatal classes and support groups.

"Yet we know that by engaging fathers early, they stay involved with their child, even if the parents separate.

"Equally, we were not surprised to hear that the same childcare and flexible working issues keeping women from actively participating in the workplace, also keep fathers from parenting.

"We are concerned by this imbalance in parental leave and access to flexible working for fathers. These issues must be addressed if we are to improve outcomes for children and parents right across Scotland."


The committee recommended that fathers should have the same access to NHS parenting classes and the same right to flexible working hours as mothers.

It also called on the Scottish government to issue good-practice guidance on including new fathers in written publications, and promote policies "that are not perceived by fathers as tokenistic".

The government should also support the establishment of new groups and help existing groups to grow, as well as helping single fathers and those in rural areas, it said.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said wider societal changes were needed as well as help from government, but they would consider what further measures could be taken.

She added: "The evidence to committee showed that, though progress has been made to recognise the incredible importance of both parents, there are still too many instances of a mother-centric view of parenting.

"We have done a lot of work to address that in the way we communicate with families and our parent education core syllabus specifically calls for fathers to have access to flexible, participative and responsive antenatal support.

"We continue to work with a range of partners, some of whom gave evidence, to help other service providers make the same progress."

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