Ben Black, CEO, My Family Care

Work+Family Summary: August 2017

Ben Black, CEO, My Family Care

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Regular work+family updates for
HR and diversity professionals.

Ben Black's monthly summary of everything you need to know about work+family - female leadership, flexible working, gender diversity and a bit of childcare and eldercare news to boot...


Other than 'that' Google memo, it was all about childcare in August.

The Government and childcare

I've said for a long time that the move to 30 free hours of nursery care was a slow car-crash waiting to happen. It's been badly thought-through and the direct result of a manifesto promise in an election the Tories didn't expect to win. Working parents want flexibility and money to spend on the childcare that suits their, and their families', needs. There will be a number of nurseries closing as a result, but not nearly as many as the Pre-School Learning Alliance research suggested.

The Govt.'s reputation was further damaged by a large glitch in the Childcare Choices website that is supposed to bring clarity and relief to all! We ran a recent webinar on the forthcoming changes, but if you would like more detailed input on what it all means, please get in touch.

Elsewhere, research from the TUC illustrated just how big the challenge young working parents are facing. As many as 2 out of 5 are penalised when they so much as mention flexible working.


I'm a big fan of the Hampton-Alexander Review. Its targets are altogether tougher and more meaningful than the Davies Review it replaced. The Chief-Exec of the Review, Denise Wilson, was on form in August speaking at the MBA's employer forum, but she got it completely wrong on childcare. "It's a myth that children get in the way..." Of course they get in the way, it would be crazy if they didn't. The fact they get in the way far more of the mother's career than the father's is the issue we should be debating.

August was also the month that saw the sad death of the Review's eponymous founder, Helen Alexander. It's worth reading her obituary to understand what a decent, intelligent, and successful force for good she was. It's clear the City could do with more people like her. Citywire reported that only 1 in 10 funds is run by a woman. Lads culture still largely to blame...


Returner schemes are certainly getting plenty of notice and they have been big news in the US for some time. Now, the Govt. has launched a £5m fund to help support some of the employer programmes out there. I remain slightly sceptical about the overall effectiveness of it all. I will happily be proved wrong!

Companies in the news

Glassdoor released its list of employers with the best work-life balance, with plenty of MFC clients featuring. IKEA (where our childcare business, Tinies, runs all the crèches) announced ambitious plans to allow staff more time off for work-life balance. Johnson and Johnson became the latest employer to look at maternity leave on a global basis. UBS released fascinating research looking at the different career paths of women. And Deloitte released its own gender pay-gap data.


Employers continue to get more involved in the working carer challenge. August saw a great feature in the FT highlighting what some of the best employers are doing. Grateful to all the MFC clients which helped put the piece together.

The Google memo

What you need to know. A male employee, with a decent academic CV, made a few points which got the world talking. In a nutshell, here's what he said:

  • Men and women are different
  • The reason there are so many more male coders is because, generally, they are biologically better at it
  • And ridiculous that you can't say anything about gender diversity without being hung up and quartered by the feminist zealots that control the diversity debate. He was duly fired which went some way to proving his point!

He made some decent and accurate points. But justifying a position that looks wrong and unfair by making generalisations based on gender, leads to some very dangerous territory. I have enough Jewish ancestors to know how that type of argument can end.

I have no wish to be hung out to dry either, but employers cannot get to gender equality until society sorts out some of its stuff as well - less pink clothes for girls; no presumption of maternal care being the preferred post-divorce option; more men becoming nannies and nurses; take-up of Shared Parental Leave becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Having a debate about gender equality at places like Google, without society moving at the same pace, that's pretty unhealthy as well...

Ben Black

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