IWD surveys look at impact of caring on women’s ability to work and progress

TUC analysis shows how many women are kept out of the labour market after having children, while a BCC report urges action to address the impact of having children on women’s career progression.

Pregnant adult businesswoman working at her working place in office.

Women are around seven times more likely than men to be out of the labour market due to caring commitments, according to a new analysis published by the TUC, while a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce says two thirds of mothers say that having children has affected their career progression.

The TUC analysis of official statistics finds that more than 1.46 million women are unable to work alongside their family commitments, compared to around 230,000 men, with women in their 30s hardest hit compared to men of the same age.  One in 10 women in their 30s – more than 450,000 women – is out of the labour market because of caring responsibilities – compared to just one in 100 men in their 30s.

But at every age – from the very start right through to the end of their careers – women are more likely than men to have to drop out of paid work because of caring commitments.

The TUC says that this illustrates that high-quality childcare that is free at the point of use should be available for all parents from the end of maternity leave to the end of primary school. This would help women stay in their jobs and continue with their careers once they have children.  It also found that women shoulder most of the care for older and disabled relatives too, with the staffing crisis in social care making it harder for women to stay in work alongside their caring responsibilities.

The analysis also finds that women are much more likely than men to be working in low-paid jobs – and are far less likely to be in high-paid work.  Women make up two-thirds (65%) of the 10 lowest-paid occupations in the UK, like jobs in cleaning, catering and care, but less than two in five (39%) women are working in the 10 highest-paid occupations, in industries like finance, law and IT.

The TUC is calling for universal free childcare and for every job to be advertised with the possible flexible options stated and all workers must have the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job as well as action on the staffing crisis in the social care sector and greater action on addressing gender pay gaps such as mandatory action plans and fines for employers who fail to comply.

It was also announced that former TUC leader Frances O’Grady will join Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow equalities secretary Annelise Dodds in a review of the issues that contribute to the gender pay gap which Labour says will inform its policies to support working parents, address unequal pay and rethink the parental leave system.

Meanwhile, British Chambers of Commerce research found two thirds [67%] of female respondents who have had childcare responsibilities in the last 10 years felt they missed out on career progression as a result. This includes career development, pay rises and/or promotions. For male respondents who have had childcare responsibilities, 35% believed they missed out.

Almost two-thirds of female respondents said they would prefer to take time from paid work for childcare responsibilities, compared to 55% of male respondents.

On caring duties for other relatives, 77% of male respondents believe there is not sufficient support available for people with non-paid caring responsibilities for elderly or disabled relatives or friends. This compares with 86% of female respondents.

For those who have had caring responsibilities in the last 10 years, an equal proportion (52%) of males and female respondents felt they missed out on career progression as a result of their duties.

The research also covered the menopause and found almost three quarters [74%] of female respondents feel there is not sufficient support for those experiencing menopauseOne in three female respondents who have gone through menopause felt that it impacted their career negatively. And almost a half [43%] of female respondents who haven’t yet experienced the menopause believe they will miss out on career opportunities due to menopause.

The BCC has launched a three-year campaign on gender equality, including the creation of a Chamber Workplace Equity Commission and developing policies for Government and best practices for businesses.

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