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What is Year of the Dad and why was it created?

Year of the Dad is a celebration of the difference a great dad can make to children’s wellbeing, confidence, and educational attainment.

Research overwhelmingly shows that children, families and society as a whole benefit from the positive involvement of fathers – the “dad effect” - and Year of the Dad has been created to recognise this difference.

Throughout 2016 we’re issuing a rallying call to

  1. Dads and their families to share their experiences and the difference they are making.
  2. Services to embrace and include dads as service users
  3. Employers to support dads by offering family-friendly working.

We want to support confident parents in all their roles at work and at home to foster a more equal society. Because as Scandinavia shows, countries with greater equality between men and women also have higher wellbeing.

Year of the Dad is organised by Fathers Network Scotland with support from the Scottish Government and partner organisations.

Why now?


We believe we’re at a tipping point. Over the past 50 years we have seen striking cultural changes from a time when many dads weren’t even at their children’s births, to the present-day reality when 98% are at the birth and millions are fully involved in a nurturing/caring role. The old stereotype of married breadwinner and disciplinarian no longer serves us in an age of increasing diversity and gender equality.


In the past year new legislation has provided eligible employees the right to access shared parental leave and all employees the right to request flexible working – this means that taking leave from work to care for our families and working flexibly can be seen as not just a benefit used by mums. We believe this is an opportunity for dads to increase the day-to-day involvement with their children which many dads crave. However, unless we create more awareness of policies and practices, share the benefits to families and to business, many dads will struggle against outdated attitudes. That’s why Year of the Dad is offering a nudge to accelerate positive change by celebrating and supporting the key contribution fathers make to child development, family and community life.

What are you asking Dads to do?

Many are already quietly doing an amazing job nurturing and supporting their children and families. So we’re encouraging them to share their experiences, spread the word, tell us the stories, good or bad, of their efforts to be there for their children.

We hope all families will draw support from the groundswell that Year of the Dad brings – by signing up and getting involved in the campaign at Whether it’s negotiating flexible working or meeting other dads in local groups at the weekend, we can resource you with relevant information from our friendly network.

Where can Dads get more information?

We have a wealth of information available on the Year of the Dad website, including a directory of dad-friendly groups and organisations across Scotland, fact sheets and inspiring stories of other dads who have done things differently.

But this is not just for dads, who need society-wide support to fulfil their crucial role. We’d encourage mums, dads, employers and services to all to get involved and benefit from the ‘dad effect’.

Employers have a big role to play here, what are you doing to engage them?

Many of the most proactive employers are already embracing this change and supporting their dads with enhanced paternity leave and pay, dads’ representatives at executive level, and paid attendance at ante-natal appointments, for example. Check out the Scottish Top Employers for Working Families Awards for some great examples.

We know employers are key to this shift, and we’ve been doing extensive market research to find out what could support them in taking steps to create a more diverse and inclusive culture. So we are working with organisations to create dads’ networks, workshops for new fathers and to share how they use policies and benefits to create more family- friendly culture and a better work life balance for employees.

We are asking employers to sign up to Year of the Dad and share what they are doing.

What is your view on current paternity leave provisions?

Paternity leave is important time for dads to bond with their newborn babies and support their partners. We know that those families where dad takes time to be with their children right at the beginning will benefit the most over time. These dads are also more likely to share domestic roles at home which also has a positive effect on relationships.

Dads are currently entitled to two weeks’ statutory pay paternity from their employers, and many are also eligible for shared parental leave, which is anything up to 50 weeks in agreement with their partners.

We would like more families to benefit from this, our research shows many dads cannot afford to take time out from work or fear disapproval from their peers or employer. We’re continuing to explore what works for dads in Scotland and how business can benefit from greater engagement and loyalty at work.

While shared parental leave is a crucial step forward, we believe it doesn’t go far enough because it is often low paid and depends on mum giving up her leave. We will therefore work with employers to encourage to match pay for dads with enhanced maternity pay. The experience of other countries, particularly in Scandinavia, shows us that take-up is low until dedicated “daddy leave” is offered on a use-it-or-lose it basis.

How would "Daddy Leave" help?

Dads often don’t feel as confident as mums to care for their babies but when they substantially share the nurturing role at home – for example when mum goes back to work - this confidence grows. Recent research shows that what we have long called the “maternal bond” is in fact a “parental bond” that relies not on gender but on the habit of caring for a child, which builds those essential neural pathways of attachment in the brain. It’s good for children to have a strong attachment to more than one carer and for partners to share domestic roles, which enhances relationships.

So we know the workplace benefits with increased productivity and relationships at home benefit -but dads want support to negotiate this.

Is this just about Dads? What is the role of Mums?

Mums are absolutely crucial and an integral part of Year of the Dad – indeed, the current CEO of Fathers Network Scotland (which is organising Year of the Dad) is a mum, as are many board members and workers. For generations mums have been a central nurturing presence in the home. We acknowledge their role and don’t want to undermine them: on the contrary, to encourage and support them as dads increasingly share this nurturing role – along with the housework – and bring their own distinctive and essential qualities to the parenting team.

Are you saying two parents are better than one?

Today’s families are diverse and services and workplaces need to reflect their needs. Single parents need support, particularly where biological fathers are not involved - which is the case in about five per cent of families in Scotland. But biological dads are only one kind of father, and we know that children benefit from a more inclusive definition of the other “father-figures” who may have a positive nurturing influence in their lives: uncles, gay dads, godfathers, adoptive dads, grandads, stepdads, male mentors or teachers and many others.

How are you taking Scotland's diverse cultures into account?

We’re open to all kinds of fathers, of every ethnicity and religious persuasion, and seek to encourage and support rather than judge and impose our views and biases of what a dad should look like. It’s important for families to decide what domestic arrangements best suit their situation and culture. What’s important for us is that that families choose from a full range of options – not just dated stereotypes of what dad should or shouldn’t do at work and at home.

Is this a lobbying group? What are you asking of the Scottish Government?

We’re not a lobbying group – we’re championing fathers of all kinds, supporting cultural change, influencing father-friendly policies and creating more father inclusive services whilst modelling equality in our own organisation. We are working with the Scottish Government as a partner towards greater equality in the home for the wellbeing of children and relationships. We therefore work alongside other Government campaigns around equality, education and business.

How is the Scottish Government backing the campaign?

The Scottish Government is indeed backing this campaign as part of its wider commitment to gender equality, because supporting dads as equal parents runs absolutely in parallel with – and indeed facilitates – the Scottish Government’s commitment to 50:50 boardrooms by 2020.

How is women's equality linked to your campaign?

When employers no longer assume it will be women who is going to take parental leave, then women will be considered alongside men for positions. This current covert “maternity discrimination” currently counts against them. In many Nordic countries, for example, where take up of “daddy leave” is higher, gender equality in the workplace is noticeably better leading to better outcomes for all the family.

Wouldn't reducing economic inequality be a better way to improve parenting?

Both strategies are important and indeed, the Scottish Government is supporting both. Those in more deprived situations are some of the most enthusiastic users of services offered for dads by our partners across Scotland. We will be targeting third sector organisations who support those in the most socially and economically deprived areas. Many of these families feel they don’t have choices to how they parent and what work they do.

What are your connections to fathers' groups that favour direct action?

We’re not a fathers’ rights organisation and have no affiliation to direct action groups. That’s not to say that there aren’t some inequalities in the way fathers are treated compared to mothers, particularly when it comes to decisions around custody. For example our partners at One Parent Family Scotland tell us that they’ve intervened in a number of situations to take children out of care and restore them to fathers who had been completely overlooked when decisions were being made. And our partners Families Need Fathers Scotland offer a great advice service for dads who feel they’re being unjustly kept from seeing their children. But in general we believe that as culture increasingly reflects the crucial role dads play in the nurture and care of their children, courts will reflect that in the decisions they make.

Is this not a case of middle class Dads preaching to those less fortunate?

Not at all. We stand in solidarity with all dads across society, and we’re delivering this celebration in partnership with a whole raft of organisations that work at the coalface of Scotland’s marginalised communities, helping parents to share the hard work of bringing up children amid frankly shameful levels of social inequality.