Fathers as carers in UK law and policy : dominant ideologies and lived experience

Busby, Nicole and Weldon-Johns, Michelle (2019) Fathers as carers in UK law and policy : dominant ideologies and lived experience. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 41 (3). pp. 280-301. ISSN 0964-9069

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    Abstract

    This article explores how working fathers are conceptualised within the UK’s work-family law and policy framework and whether a dominant ideology of fatherhood can be discerned. The socio-legal literature on men and masculinities is considered alongside established feminist theory on families, paid work and unpaid care to provide a backdrop to the analysis of current policy provision in this area. Three ‘ideal’ type ideologies of fatherhood are identified (‘absent’, ‘involved’ and ‘active’) which are used to critically examine the current legal framework. Despite claims to the contrary, the current framework supports and reaffirms the gendering of care so that the intransigence on the part of men and women to rebalance related responsibilities is unsurprising. The authors argue for a more care-centric approach to work-family policy in place of gender-specific normative modelling. A legal framework which enabled and encouraged all care providers to participate regardless of gender and biological relationship would not only improve the workplace experiences of women, but also enable men to develop and fulfil their care-giving aspirations and potential.