“A day one right to flexible working would make a big difference to working parents”

Mark Gatto talked to the TUC about his experience of asking for flexible work as a new dad.

26 Jul 2023| News

Dr Mark Gatto, 36, is a member of the UCU union and is lecturer based in the North East, where he lives with his wife, 4-year-old son, and 1-year-old daughter.

Mark talked to the TUC about his experience of asking for flexible work as a new dad. 

He said: “On the whole I’ve had a positive experience of flexible working. I know I am lucky – as I’m aware many other dads have real difficulties accessing flexible work.

“My son is 4 now. When I was applying for a permanent job in September 2021, I asked if I could work flexibly.

“Instead of working full-time, I asked for a 0.9 contract, so I could finish work at 4pm to collect my son from nursery.”

Nursery drop-offs 

“My wife is a doctor in hospital medicine so it’s important for me to be able to do the nursery drop-offs and pick-ups.

“While academia offers a lot of flexibility, unfortunately that doesn’t typically apply to teaching timetabling and – as is common across the university sector – my HR department couldn’t support this request formally.

“Students are the bread and butter of universities. At my institution we have to be able to deliver their teaching between 9am and 6pm, so no lecturers can have constraints on their teaching time for childcare logistics.

“As a formal flexible working arrangement wasn’t possible, I’m pleased I’ve been able to work flexibly through informal arrangements in my department.”

Supportive colleagues

“My department are very supportive, and each semester I work with the other teachers to swap our sessions so that I can finish at 4pm and collect my son.

“That’s easier when I teach on a large module as there are plenty of other staff I can swap with. And it’s been so far so good! I am thankful for the good will of my colleagues.

“Without this informal flexibility, I’m not sure how we would manage our childcare. My son’s childcare provider – who we are really happy with – closes at 5.30pm. We don’t have any grandparents nearby, so I suppose we’d have to move him to another nursery open later or pay someone else to collect him.

“Because I lecture in leadership and human resources, I know about flexible working and I’m confident to ask for it. But other dads may not be so well informed.


“There can be a stigmatisation of dads who ask for flex, due to our persistent cultural attitudes towards men and masculinity in the workplace. I’m lucky I don’t encounter that because of my field of research.

“I think a day one right to flexible working would make a big difference to working parents.

“And to see job adverts showing the flexible working options available in the role would be great – because it then takes away the burden of the job applicant having to ask for flexibility. You need confidence to do that, and that can be difficult especially in your early career, or at the end of your career if you’re caring for family members.”