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22 December 2003

Christmas Father is becoming a myth
While Santa’s job might take him to every home, research shows work pressure means many fathers are absent at Christmas

While the December holiday season is characterised as a time for family, current work pressures and patterns are forcing an entirely different day-to-day reality in many households as fathers are unable to disengage from their jobs. ‘Where’s daddy? The UK fathering deficit’ , by Alexandra Jones and Stephen Bevan for The Work Foundation, BT and Management Today magazine, which unusually researched men alone as a group, found that nearly two in five men (37%) do unscheduled work over the Christmas period.

Perhaps most disturbingly, a quarter (24%) of those surveyed admitted that work caused them to neglect their children in some way – for example, 21% missed their child’s Christmas play in 2002. It is not just children who lose out though, as a similar 22% also fail to buy presents for their families due to work time commitments.

Christmas certainly focuses attention, but the truth is that men’s personal lives are increasingly sacrificed to their work. Four-fifths work at weekends (most at least once or twice a month) and when they do it tends to be for at least four hours at a time. 75% of men with children under five felt that they are more likely to feel guilty about neglecting their domestic duties than their fathers did.

“This research debunks the myth that men are happy to be distant dads. Attitudes are changing and many men want to get more involved with their families”, commented Stephen Bevan, director of research, The Work Foundation. “But working practices have not caught up and UK plc’s long hours culture means many men struggle to achieve a good work-life balance. If dads do manage to attend key events over the Christmas period, our concern is that they may need to make up the time at weekends – or pay career penalties".

– ENDS –

Notes to editors:

  • The Work Foundation continues the tradition set by The Industrial Society to improve the quality of working life in the UK, with a unique fusion of research, consultancy and advocacy. The Work Foundation is wholly independent and holds not-for-profit and Royal Charter status.
  • This study is based on telephone surveys with 500 male readers of Management Today.
  • Stephen Bevan is available for interview.
  • Copies of the research report, ‘Where’s daddy? The UK fathering deficit’ can de downloaded free of charge here.


Further press enquiries, contact The Work Foundation tel: 020 7004 7224
or Adam Wurf 07812 450 398 Email: [email protected]

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