MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Working Parents and Carers Hit By ‘Outdated’ Work Cultures and Practices

Working parents and carers feel that they are being held back from promotions.
Mixed race family sharing time in living room. Caucasian father using notebook computer to work and half-Thai playing and painting under desk while Asian mother with laptop working her job on sofa.

Outdated cultures and practices still remain in many workplaces around the UK, says a poll by Working Families.

Nearly half of working mothers (41%) say being a parent is holding them back from a promotion at work. Those who care for a sick, elderly or disabled family member (50%) also said they were being held back.

Over a third (38%) say that the people who work the longest hours are the most respected by senior leaders. Further to this, 44% of working parents disagreed that the senior leaders in their organisation are positive role models for a good work-life balance.

Jane van Zyl, CEO of Working Families, says: “It’s depressing to see that—in 2021—so many women still find that being a parent stops them from getting promoted at work. Half of the people caring for another family member find their caring responsibilities do the same. So much talent and so many diverse perspectives are being lost because too many businesses can’t move past outdated workplace cultures.”

COVID-19 Has Positive Impact On Work Culture

Released in mid-October, Working Families also found that the pandemic had a positive impact on workplace culture. 41% of working parents say that their company has improved during the pandemic. 50% also say open conversations about wellbeing and mental health are more accepted at work now than they were pre-COVID-19. For those who act as carers, this rose to 61%.

“While increasingly high numbers of managers and leaders recognise the benefits of family-friendly ways of working, there are still pockets of resistance across sectors,” van Zyl continues. “But the experience of the pandemic has speeded up a shift in how many of us want to work, and those resisting positive change will find it comes back to bite them.”

Parents and Carers Worry That Workplace Changes Are Temporary

However, working parents are concerned that these positive changes are temporary. Over a third (36%) and almost half (48%) of carers say they are concerned about taking time off for caring needs. This is because it could be frowned upon at work now lockdown is over.

However, this could also have a negative impact on employers and employee retention. According to van Zyl, 85% of working parents told the charity that they would prioritise work-life balance when looking for their next role.

“Faced with a choice between an employer who puts effort into employee wellbeing and one that celebrates unhealthy working practices, I think we can all guess where the best and brightest talent is going to go,” she advises.

“We take great heart from the fact that the pandemic has led to positive change in many organisations, and conversations about mental health and wellbeing are more accepted than they were. And we know from our work with our employer members that so many organisations are going above and beyond in implementing progressive policies and reaping the rewards of that in productivity, retention and morale.”