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City dads work long hours but know when to go home

City dads work long hours but know when to go home

Fathers working in London's financial centre "the City" work on average 53 hours each week. Most draw the line there because if not they would see their children only at weekends.

"In this macho world of investment banking you're expected to put in the hours," said one analyst in response to a Reuters survey. "But the one consistent line from my kids is 'daddy, you never have any time for us'. It makes me feel rotten."

The survey of 30 economists, traders, strategists and analysts working in London's investment banks showed most City men are at their desks by around 7 a.m. and may not set off for home until about 11 hours later.

Men who took part in the survey - the majority of whom requested anonymity - said they often have to take work home in the evenings and at weekends, although they try to fit in some "quality time" with the children in the evenings.

"I take great care that I'm home in time to have dinner with the children...put them to bed, and read their story. Then if necessary I go and do some extra work," said one economist.

Six men questioned said their working hours have a "severe impact" on the time they can spend with their children; 11 said their hours had a "strong impact" and nine said "some impact". Three said "little impact" and one said "no impact at all".

"My working hours have a severe impact because I'm so knackered," said one currency strategist. "I get home just as the children are ready to go to bed. Your children start to equate seeing you with going to bed. It can be a very negative thing."

PATERNITY LEAVE

Fifteen men said they were entitled to paternity leave, nine said they were not and six said they didn't know.

In a parallel Reuters survey of financial institutions in the City, 14 out of 16 companies said they offered paid paternity leave of between two and 10 days.

"We are pretty flexible on paternity leave," said one analyst. "The company does have a scheme but within that negotiation is possible and extra days are possible at the discretion of the line manager."

Britain's Labour government published plans in December to offer state-funded paternity leave to working fathers which would belatedly bring Britons more into line with their European counterparts. Current legislation allows up to 13 weeks of unpaid leave to be taken by either parent during the first five years of a child's life, provided the child was born after December 15, 1999.

Men said on the whole that their employers are understanding if they have to take their children to the doctor during the day or leave work early for a school parents' evening. Eleven men said their employers were "very sympathetic", 14 said "sympathetic", three "neutral", one said "unsympathetic" and one said "very unsympathetic".

"They are very sympathetic because they've got no choice. If they made it difficult for me then I would just walk out," said a trader with three children.

Others said a string of early departures from work would not be appreciated. "They're reasonably sympathetic if it's a one off event," said one man. "Clearly a catalogue of disasters at home wouldn't go down that well."

Some said their employers gave the impression that childcare is a woman's responsibility. "It is a male-dominated profession in many respects and the expectation is people will be married with partners who don't work such long hours and so the responsibility for the children is largely their partner's," said an economist.

Fourteen men who took part in the poll said their partners did not work while five had partners who worked full-time and eleven part-time.

WORK HARD

According to the European Union's Working Time Directive, the maximum number of hours that can be worked each week is 48 although companies can opt out of the legislation.

While fathers said they work long hours in the City, 18 out of 22 who answered the question said "presenteeism" - being present at one's desk for longer than required for the sake of appearances - was not a problem in their offices. "Leaving the spare jacket over the chair doesn't really go on," said one.

But men said they felt under increasing pressure to work harder in their jobs and leaving the office before 5.00 p.m. is a no-no. "It's almost like you're considered a wimp if you leave work before five o'clock," said one economist.

One senior dealer said leaving work early was not a possibility. "I'm a key member of the team and having to leave early would leave the team unable to function properly," he said.

Chris Furness, a market strategist at 4Cast whose eldest child is 24 and youngest is 19 months, said he works roughly a 50-hour week but makes the effort to leave the office two days a week at 5.00 p.m. "I'm at the stage of my career where I've realised what priorities should be," he said.

Others said their workloads were becoming heavier which means they are working longer days than in the past. "The great myth was technology was supposed to free us up but increasingly people are in treadmill existences where there are less people to do more work," said one economist. "The downside is people are being expected to work harder and the effect of that is damage to family life."

Respondents admitted City workers do get paid handsomely for their work but some said hardworking fathers can lose track of what they are actually doing it for.

"Most people think they are working towards some goal but nobody knows what that goal is," said one respondent. "And how much money do you need? The problem is people keep on convincing themselves that they need more for a better existence but once you've made a million or a couple, what are you doing it for?"

The only thing that keeps some men going though is the thought of retiring early so they can then make up for lost time with their families, they said. "I want to get out by the age of 50," said one. "The risk is though I'm going to be a fashion embarrassment to my kids."

Additional reporting by Pratima Desai


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