There are 2.3 million families in the U.S. that are headed by a single father. Fully 27% of working single parents are men, and it’s the fastest growing family group in the workplace. Unfortunately, bosses and coworkers often don’t recognize that single fathers have the same issues as do single moms.
Perception vs. Reality
Traditionally, men have been viewed as able to give 100% in the workplace because the child care was taken care of by the mother or other partner at home. However, this is not the case when the father is single. Instead, he has to manage both work and family care on his own, just as do single mothers.
Single working fathers make the same career vs. family choices as single moms, such as carving out more time with their children, reducing travel obligations and working closer to home and schools. Their issues are the same as those of single working mothers but often are not recognized or acknowledged by their employer.
The reality is that bosses are often more lenient when women ask for family-related workplace concessions. Working mothers can negotiate for flexible hours or other individualized schedule to allow for child care logistics. Men don’t find it as easy to request special arrangements such as leaving work early to pick up a child at school, make a doctor’s appointment or participate in school activities. These requests may be frowned upon more often than those of a female coworker because of the workplace’s view of stereotypical gender roles.
No Legal Protection
There are no Federal laws that protect single parents from workplace discrimination. In fact, in most states it’s not illegal to deny employment to single parents.
Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD) is discrimination against workers based on family caregiving responsibilities, such as for children or elders, spouse or significant other illness, or family member with a disability. Some states have ruled FRD illegal, especially if it carries over to protected areas such as gender discrimination or retaliation for taking family leave. An example of a woman with young children being passed over for promotion because of her family situation could be argued as gender discrimination; however, a single father would not be covered in this situation because he is not a member of the protected gender.
Support All Single Parents
Here are some ideas that can help you assist single working fathers and mothers:
- Watch for situations where managers may be granting working parent requests for special schedules or time off unfairly. Remember that working fathers, especially single ones, need accommodations just as much as working moms.
- Share helpful resources such as www.singleparent411.org and www.singleparentsnetwork.com with your organization.
- Make an EAP referral if a manager or supervisor feels that a single parent is becoming overwhelmed with his or her responsibilities, affecting work quality. Keep in mind that the manager or supervisor may also be a candidate for an EAP referral, if he or she is unwilling to recognize the issue and support the worker as your organization would wish.
Whether shared or full custody, when a working father has responsibility for his children it’s a juggling act. He’s keeping several balls in the air, including child care, work and home responsibilities. Employers must recognize these pressures and the stress that comes with being a single parent, and try to accommodate work requests to make single parenting a little easier.