Currently, in the UK, nine in ten households with dependent children have working parents.
During 2018, over 10,000 male and female employees reported about their experiences, attitudes and aspirations in relation to balancing professional employment with personal caring responsibilities for both children and adults. The resulting Equal Lives report published by Santander UK in partnership with Business in the Community shows that caring responsibilities outside of work impact on how engaged employees are at work, their ability to progress and impetus to leave, as well as relationships within teams at work. It suggests that if employers are to create healthy and productive workplace cultures they will need to recognise individual employee needs and aspirations outside of work; taking steps to reduce the gap between their employees’ attitudes and the reality of day-to-day organisational behaviours
Men feel invisible in the workplace
A growing number of fathers want a better balance between work and family, but many feel invisible in the workplace and under pressure to appear unrestricted by family responsibilities. The Modern Families Index 2017 showed that 44% of fathers lied or altered the truth to their employers about family life conflicting with work.
This is a huge concern for employers, who risk losing out on their best talent – male and female – if they do not adapt. We know there is a strong desire from millennials for better work-life balance, yet cultural norms about caring responsibilities and the ‘ideal’, unencumbered worker continue to persist.
Caring for dependent adults
Caring for dependent adults presents different challenges than caring for children – with carers often citing the additional unpredictability posed by a variety of social, physical, medical or other needs.
Organisational culture doesn’t necessarily make it any easier
- Even in organisations with family-friendly policies, men report concern for career, progression, finances and a feeling that caring duties are not as recognised as women’s and less appreciated by employers.
- Although the take up of flexible working is seen as important, the taken up does not reflect this.
- Many men say thy would be encouraged to use policies to support them with balancing work and care, they need to feel confident that it would not impact on their career prospects or if there were visible examples from senior leaders.
- If employees feel their line managers are supportive, they are more likely to take up family-friendly policies.
Nathan Bostock, Chief Executive, Santander UK, said:
Social attitudes to family and caring have changed substantially in recent years but it’s clear that many feel that their workplace hasn’t kept pace. No one should feel forced to choose between being a great parent or carer and having a great career. Businesses that want to attract and retain the best talent need to look carefully at how they can support all their employees to balance work and family life in a way that works for them and the business alike.
Employers need to get it right because everyone stands to benefit – employees will have more fulfilled lives outside of work and businesses will have employees who are more engaged, loyal and productive. As a starting point, it’s vital that we encourage more open conversations about balancing work and care, ensuring role models are visible and line-managers are equipped to provide the right support.
WiC Comment: The caring responsibilities of women and men are not yet equal, but this report shows that men are ready for change, but they express the downsides that many women so indeed experience.