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Jennifer Liston-Smith

Levelling the Caring Field: Equal Lives

Jennifer Liston-Smith

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Regular work+family updates for
HR and diversity professionals.

Women are - still - eight times more likely to play the primary role in caring for children and are one and a half times more likely to take the lead in caring for adult dependants. Now, men want to do more: over half (56%) would like to be more involved in their caring responsibilities - particularly men under 35 - and 85% of all men think they should be as involved in caring as women. The recent Equal Lives survey report from Business in the Community burst onto the HR and D&I scene last week with stats like these and a loud call, from 10,225 participants, for working men to be more involved in child and adult care and for employers to recognise that role more effectively. Nathan Bostock, CEO of Santander UK who partnered in the research underlines: "this would, in turn, facilitate better representation and progression of women in the workplace - supporting more equal lives in both professional and personal terms."

The Equal Lives report is of high value for those building the business case for shared parental leave, and for carers leave. It also makes a strong case for flexible working and - more importantly - for that flexible working to form a viable career path for men and women, and not an off-ramp from career success. The report falls into two main parts: attitudes & reality - why employers should care about caring - and moves on to consider organisational cultures, behaviours and steps that can help.

Further, Equal Lives headlines include the finding that, currently, only 37% of men and women with caring responsibilities feel that they have the right balance between care and work. 84% of men with caring responsibilities feel it is important to be able to work flexibly while 59% of such men feel they are actually able to work flexibly, and 51% of respondents who are caring for dependant adults intend to leave their current organisation in the near future.

For employers to tackle this disengagement and threat of talent leakage, the report has 5 recommendations:

  1. Be Pro-Active - through inclusive policies, role models, and ensuring career progression is tracked for parents and carers.
  2. Responsible Flexible Working - making flexible working the norm, for all groups, focusing on outputs rather than hours.
  3. Empower Line Managers - to apply policies consistently but also have sensitive conversations.
  4. Shared Parental Leave and Carers Leave - including enhancing pay for SPL, and allowing this taken in flexible ways. For carers, making provision for emergencies and for bereavement leave as well as considering (even small amounts of) paid leave.
  5. Collaborate - a call to continue the dialogue between Government and businesses and to promote examples of best practice.

At My Family Care, we have coached thousands of working parents and carers (as well as providing practical care solutions) and very clearly recognise the themes and support these recommendations. This point is familiar with regard to carers of adult dependants: "Discussing responsibilities and demands outside of work with their line manager and joining an internal employee network are more important amongst employees caring for adults than those caring for children." It is very helpful to have this kind of statement now emerge from such a large-scale survey, and give fuel to those internal champions who promote training for managers and the passionate volunteers who lead networks and employee resource groups.

Our own research and think tank events have consistently highlighted the barriers faced by working fathers and male carers, and the opportunities that exist to enhance engagement through clearer, more accessible policies without career penalties, as described in our research Who Shares Wins.

As the Equal Lives report references, helping parents to combine caring and work - in jobs that match their skills - is seen by HM Treasury as key to long-term UK productivity (Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation, HM Treasury, 2015).

Our HR Insights webinar with HR Review on 29th November will further explore the role of shared caring in closing the Gender Pay Gap, among other Gender Pay Gap insights.[Link http://www.hrreview.co.uk/inside-hr-webinars/gender-pay-reporting-2019/112316] when we discuss these findings and other insights with top employers and My Family Care clients UBS and Arup.

Jennifer Liston-Smith, Director, Head of Coaching & Consultancy, My Family Care

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HR and diversity professionals.