Employers have been urged to ensure their working carers policies reflect the breadth of caring responsibilities different groups of employees will be managing, after research found some groups including ethnic minorities are more likely to face hurdles when combining work and care.
Research carried out by Ipsos for Business in the Community’s (BITC) Who cares? report found that 32% of people from ethnic minority groups have left or considered leaving a job due to a lack of flexibility, compared with only 21% of white people.
Four in 10 working carers say their caring responsibilities have prevented them from applying for a job or promotion. This feeling is more common among women (58%) and carers from an ethnic minority background (50%).
There are also differences in how supported workers feel with childcare responsibilities based on household income and working pattern. Half of workers in households with annual incomes under £26,000 felt supported by employers with their childcare, compared with three quarters of those from households earning £26,000 per year or more.
Flexible working policies
Twenty-eight per cent of shift workers felt unsupported, compared with 10% who work regular office hours.
Charlotte Woodworth, gender equality director at Business in the Community, said: “This research tells us some groups are having a significantly harder time than others when it comes to combining paid work and care.
“Women with caring responsibilities and carers from black, Asian, mixed race and other ethnically diverse backgrounds are being pushed down or out of the workforce as a result.
“Employers have the power to create working cultures that support all carers, regardless of race, gender or personal circumstances. Only then can we put up our hands and say that we have a truly inclusive workforce in the UK and employers must not stop reviewing, changing, and challenging their internal policies and practices until that happens.”
People from an ethnically diverse background are more likely than white colleagues to have caring responsibilities (41% compared with 34%), while a similar proportion of men and women consider themselves to be carers (34% and 37% respectively).
Children are the most common type of caring responsibility identified among the 5,444 people polled (72%), but 36% are responsible for an adult. Eight per cent are “sandwich” carers, meaning they have care responsibilities for both adults and children.
Asked about the work and care clashes they experience, women (52%) are more likely than men (42%) to say their day job has been interrupted by caring responsibilities. However, men are more likely than women to say they do not feel supported to balance childcare with paid work (22% versus15%).
Forty-six per cent of those polled say employers can help by having good working carers policies and practices to support working parents and 43% say they should support a good work-life balance.
The report recommends that employers should:
- consider caring the norm, not the exception
- tackle unequitable access to care by recognising this in the design, promotion and operation of policies aimed at working carers
- embed flexibility in their working models
- give working carers policies a “profile” and publish their full details on company websites
- champion equitable access to care support for both men and women, including equalising parental leave and introducing enhanced leave explicitly targeted at fathers and secondary carers
- foster a culture that supports men to care, by setting the tone from the top of the organisation, ensuring line managers are familiar with carers policies, and setting up carers networks.
It adds that the government should amend the shared parental leave system, particularly its reliance on the “maternal transfer mechanism” whereby mothers transfer some of their leave to fathers, in favour of dedicated support for new fathers and non-birthing parents. Employers should receive financial support to allow for this, it adds.
The government must also introduce the day-one right to request flexible working it has proposed, the report says, and employers should be required to publish parental, carer and flexible working policies on their websites, including their take-up rates.