Working carers attracted a lot of attention during the pandemic as they had more to cope with than most. As we move towards hybrid working and shape new policies, Charlotte Woodworth and Kelly Beaver look at how organisations can support working carers with the juggles they face.
While much taking place in the UK and beyond right now threatens progress around equality and inclusion – from the cost-of-living crisis to the pandemic – there are also new opportunities to drive positive change, and nowhere is this truer than in the working world.
Shifting norms around where work is done and changing attitudes around for example, work-life balance, offer an unprecedented chance to build a more equitable and inclusive working world with gender equality at its heart.
Business in the Community’s new campaign Who Cares?, launched in partnership with Ipsos UK, urges employers to seize this moment to transform the way we support working carers.
It was developed in the knowledge that caring responsibilities – specifically the juggle of trying to reconcile them with paid work – remain a key driver of gender inequality.
Who has caring responsibilities?
We kicked off the campaign with a deep dive survey of 5,444 people across the UK, with some startling results:
- While men and women are equally likely to say they have caring responsibilities, and the majority think gender shouldn’t affect ‘who cares’, women are much more likely to be sole carers, and even in joint caring situations to say they do more than their fair share;
- Six in 10 women with caring responsibilities said they had not applied for a new job or promotion because of worries about how they would combine the role with caring responsibilities; one in two carers from a Black, Asian, mixed race or ethnically diverse background said the same thing;
- There is widespread demand for a change in approach around championing gender equality at work – 70% agreed that “business and government leaders need to do more to support gender equality”;
- Flexibility, of all kinds – location, hours and more – is commonly cited as the key thing employers could better do to support people who are juggling jobs of some kind while also looking after children or others with caring needs.
What can employers do?
The status quo is not just undermining individual’s ability to access and flourish at work, it also means UK employers are missing out on the talent and experiences women, and notably those with caring responsibilities from ethnic minority backgrounds, have to offer.
Consider caring the norm, not the exception: Better support the nearly half your workforce combining paid work with caring responsibilities at any one time by embracing flexibility as the default. Publicise your polices, including how they work in practice, on your website. Move away from a model that says ‘it’s here if you ask’ to ‘starting the conversation’ with current and prospective employees.
Champion equitable access to care in your policies: Take steps to level up the support you offer people of different genders to care, adopting a more modern approach of offering equal support to new parents and looking again at policies targeting new dads, such as paternity leave.
Ipsos’ own equal paid maternity and paternity policy empowers men to take a more active role in childcare and evens the playing field for all people of childbearing age, irrespective of their gender.
Foster a culture that supports men to care: Men were more likely than women to say they felt unsupported by their employer in managing caring for children alongside their jobs.
Consider how you can challenge stigma at work around men caring – for example, showcasing senior role models juggling work and care, introducing dedicated ‘dad’ chapters in parent and carer networks.
Support men to work flexibly: This is key to enabling people to successfully combine work and care, but remains something that more women than men do, with many worried about stigma and the impact on their careers. Challenge this – actively targeting and supporting men to work more flexibly.
This great break with the old ways is a rare opportunity to develop a more progressive working world, more in line with the modern workforce’s needs; not only will this help individuals, but it also makes good business sense. If not now, when?