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Gender Imbalance Found in Flexible Working for Caregivers

on Thursday, 17 March 2022.

New research by Business in the Community and Ipsos highlights experiences and attitudes about combining paid work with care, showing that caring responsibilities disproportionately limit women's career progression.

The research concerns caring responsibilities both for children under the age of 18, and for the care of other adults. It shows that three in five women and one in five men have avoided applying for a job or promotion because of concerns about how they would balance their professional and personal responsibilities. 43% of those surveyed believe that there is still a stigma attached to requesting flexible working.

Two Sides of the Coin

Employers are likely to be familiar with well-publicised concerns about how care and family responsibilities might disproportionately impact the career progression of women. This research again highlights that issue, and also that more men than women feel unsupported to balance childcare with paid work (22% men versus 15% women).

This suggests that despite 94% respondents agreeing that caring responsibilities should be shared equally between men and women, men may feel less able to have conversations with their employers about introducing the flexibility they would need to take on the full range of caring responsibilities.

Redressing the Balance

A practical suggestion flowing from the research is to ensure information on flexible working is promoted to both male and female caregivers. If any perceived or actual stigma exists around flexible work for men with caring responsibilities, then addressing this will be a key part of then also helping women with caring responsibilities to progress in their careers. 

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BITC has suggested four areas where employers could focus in order to address some of the issues highlighted in the research:

  • consider caring the norm, not the exception
  • champion equitable access to care for all genders in employer policies
  • foster a culture that supports men to care
  • promote flexible working directly to men

Flexible Working Reform?

The Government consulted last year on proposed flexible working reform, including on making the right to request flexible working a 'day one' right. The consultation closed on 1 December 2021 and we expect the Government to respond to the consultation in the coming months.

If the proposals are implemented, they could go some way to introducing more flexibility into the system, but they are unlikely to be enough on their own and organisations should also consider their individual cultures and practices in light of the BITC research.

If you have any further questions on the gender imbalance in flexible working for caregivers, please contact Madeleine Shields in our Employment Law team on 0117 314 5226, or please complete the form below.

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