Fathers who work flexibly are both happier and more committed to their jobs as a result, research has found.

The Working for Fathers research from Working Families and Lancaster University Management school found that fathers with a flexible working arrangement, such as part-time hours or homeworking, have better physical and psychological health, are less stressed and more committed to their employers. The effect was more pronounced in the private sector than the public sector, with fathers in the public sector less likely to report higher levels of wellbeing.

The research project studied 2,000 fathers and was funded by the Big Lottery fund. It was launched by DWP minister Maria Miller today. It comes at a time when the government has announced a consultation into extending fathers’ rights to paternity leave and parental leave, and extending the right to request flexible working to all employees.

Working Families chief executive Sarah Jackson said: “Our research shows that flexible working is good for fathers, good for families and good for business. It’s clear that the more fathers are involved with family life, the happier they are, so we welcome government proposals to increase parental leave for fathers and to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees. However, we would urge them not to forget low income fathers, who currently can’t afford to take paternity leave and who – our research shows – particularly benefit from opportunities to work flexibly.”

Lead researcher from Lancaster University Caroline Gatrell said: “Our results show that flexible working makes a positive difference to the lives of working fathers, which benefits both fathers and employers. Fathers who work flexibly have better health, better relationships with colleagues and feel more in control of their work-life balance, especially if they are on low incomes. In the private sector, there is a clear link between flexible working and enhanced employee engagement. However flexible working is not a magic solution and (as can be seen among our public sector fathers) it cannot altogether cancel out the effects of anxiety in difficult times, such as recession. So it’s important for managers right down the line to be well informed and supportive of the flexible working policies on offer, making sure that fathers can access these in practice, as well as in theory.”

Maria Miller MP said: “For far too long flexible working has been dismissed as a burden on business, when in fact the most successful businesses understand the important role it can play in recruiting and retaining the right staff.

“We need to move flexible working away from being the exception, to being considered a normal way to work. With fathers wanting more of a role in family life, people working past retirement and more disabled people wanting to get into work, flexible working is something most people will want to consider at some point in their working life.”