About the project

Dr. Holly Birkett and Dr. Sarah Forbes are leading the Equal Parenting project with the aim of improving the use of family friendly policies and flexible working in the UK

Birkett and Forbes set up The Equal Parenting Project (EPP) in 2017 with the aim of using rigorous engaged academic research to help promote gender equality by breaking down barriers experienced by parents that prevent sharing of caring responsibilities, particularly in the first year after birth or adoption. The EPP prides itself in undertaking collaborative engaged research that has the potential to create change in family friendly policies. To do this, the EPP engages with a wide variety of stakeholders who are critical in these decisions. Over the years we have built a strong network of those engaged in the shared parenting and flexible working agendas across industry, media, the third sector, government departments and parliament. We have worked particularly closely with the Government Equalities Office, Department of Business and Trade, Working Families and Business in the Community and have acted as special advisors for policy reviews and research projects for all these organisations including producing government reports and adding new questions for the most recent national Parental Rights survey. Birkett and Forbes have also supported multiple organisations including Nationwide Building Society, AVIVA, The Telegraph, Aon UK, Suffolk County Council and Vodafone to change or update their company policies. In order to continue to support ongoing engagement and impact in this field the EPP has four streams of activity:

The Working Dads Employer Awards

The EPP started these awards in 2022 with the aim of celebrating the great work many companies do supporting working dads and encourage other companies to raise their game by promoting best practice.  The awards are supported by a prestigious judging panel made up on the key NGOs in the field including CIPD, BITC, Working Families and the Fatherhood Institute.  The Chair of the Fatherhood APPG Andrew Gwynne MP and Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP had key roles in the 2023 awards which were held in Parliament.  Awards were won by companies such as PwC LLP UK, John Lewis Partnership, Vodafone, E.ON UK and the British Medical Journal.

The Fathers in the Workplace Toolkit

The EEP developed the Fathers in the Workplace Toolkit in 2020 when it was launched in parliament in an event chaired by Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, the previous chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee. The toolkit is a free-to-use research informed resource that contains a range of practical tools and guidance to support fathers at work and give parents more choices around childcaring in the early years.  There are sections geared to large organisations and SME’s and 5 key modules around: setting up a parenting group, support for returning fathers after long periods of leave, guidance on writing parenting policies, guidance on communications and a parenting passport.  Later in 2023 we will also be releasing a new flexible working module based on research undertaken since the pandemic.

Flexible Working and Future of Work Project

In 2020 at the start of the pandemic the EPP started collecting data on manager’s experiences of homeworking during the pandemic. This has developed into the Flexible Working and Future of Work Project. The aim of the project is to understand the impact of working practices since COVID-19 on managers’ attitudes and intentions as well as organisation intentions around all kinds of flexible working in the future.  With this information we can help break down barriers to more inclusive flexible working in the future which will also help families to be able to share care. The project is done collaboratively and our key external stakeholders in government departments and NGO’s feed in questions based on their work to ensure the underpinning studies remain relevant and forward looking.  There is also a longitudinal element to this work.

Parenting Policy



Holly Birkett and Sarah ForbesAbove: Project leads Holly Birkett (Left) and Sarah Forbes (right)

Learn more about the Project