Fathers Leaving the Workforce


The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we work, the way we socialize, and the way we run our homes. Family dynamics are changing, and those changes may be for good. 

When schools closed and parents began working from home, one interesting trend started to emerge. Men became more involved in parenting and household activities. In fact, new research from Harvard found that nearly 70 percent of fathers in the US feel closer to their children now than they did before the pandemic.  

This increased participation can have a profoundly positive impact on the entire family. Research shows that when fathers are more involved and work closely with mothers as co-parents, the result is healthier parents, children, and families. Kids with actively involved father figures are 43 percent more likely to earn A’s in school and 33 percent less likely to repeat a grade than those without engaged dads. And the effects don’t end in school. Those with active fathers are also more likely to have higher levels of success in their careers, a better chance of having strong marriages, and an improved ability to handle stress. 

Unfortunately, according to one survey, 73 percent of dads agree that workplaces provide little support to working fathers, and one in five men were afraid of losing their jobs if they took the full amount of paternity leave offered to them. Men want to be involved caregivers, but paternity leave and flexible work hours still carry a stigma in many offices. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, however, these ideologies are changing, and many men find themselves prioritizing fatherhood.

In July, the Federal Reserve Board found that 15 percent of employed fathers expected to reduce their work hours if school did not resume in-person classes in the fall. Another 2 percent said they might quit their jobs. 

Then, in September those premonitions came true. According to analysis from the National Women’s Law Center, nearly 1.1 million workers left the labor force – meaning they are no longer working or looking for work. While women are leaving at four times the rate as men, the workforce still lost 216,000 men.

These numbers spell bad news for the American workforce and economic recovery, but this newfound value in the role of the father is not likely going away. So how can employers support working fathers while reducing costly turnover? By implementing family-friendly policies that support the right balance for all working parents. Programs like paternity leave, the opportunity to work remotely, flexible working hours, and job sharing not only increase employee satisfaction, loyalty and productivity, but they show working fathers that their organization supports their careers and their families.