Support for working parents dropping, says report

A new report shows support for parents at work is going into reverse, with a particularly detrimental impact on women.

working mum sits at desk, stressed


The mental load

Mums are shouldering significantly more of the mental load of parenting than dads, are more likely to be concerned about burnout and feel less able to progress their careers at a time when they perceive employer support for working parents is dropping, according to a new survey.

The Bright Horizons 2024 Modern Families Index shows 72% of all parents said their employer is supportive of family, but this has dropped by five per cent since 2023. It has always increased in previous years.

The annual survey of 3,000 working parents shows 74% of working mothers surveyed say they carry the mental load for parenting, compared to 48% of working dads, with 53% of women worried about the cost of living compared to 36% men, and 31% of women concerned about burnout vs 19% of men.

Working mothers also feel less able to progress their careers while working flexibly than working fathers do (63% vs 71%).

Emergency leave

When it comes to support at work for emergencies at home, 67% of working parents say they have taken an average of four days off at short notice in the last 12 months, with over three in 10 (32%) needing five or more days off.

49% of parents used annual leave to cover the time off, with fathers more likely to use annual leave (54%) and mothers more likely to use unpaid leave (51%).

The report also shows:

  • Over two fifths (42%) of respondents are now likely to look for new employment in the next year with many looking for employers who offer more family support, in particular carers. The percentage of women looking to leave has risen substantially over the last year, although men are more likely to be thinking of switching jobs.
  • Over nine in 10 carers of adults say that caring impacts their work.
  • Nearly two thirds (65%) of parents are concerned about availability of places if the new funding being introduced in England creates more demand.
  • Over a quarter of respondents were concerned about their or their partner’s mental health, while two-thirds of parents have some concerns over their children’s mental health.
  • Childcare is critical for career progression. Over three quarters (78%) would need to carefully consider their childcare options before accepting a promotion or a new job.

Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons, says: “The results of this year’s Modern Families Index are worrying to say the least. We would prefer to be reporting on progress – as we have in this research across the last decade and more – but something seems to be shifting in the wrong direction and pressures are clearly taking their toll, particularly on working mothers.

“We have always encouraged employers to provide equal support to parents of all genders. This year, the data forces us to speak out about the disproportionate pressures felt by women. The growing disconnect between the support required by working mothers and the support they currently receive is alarming and employers need to be moving forwards, not backwards, in enabling employees to combine career with family life.

“In the 21st century, both women and men fully expect to be able to combine a successful career with raising a family, and it’s up to employers to put provisions in place to help working parents to excel in their roles around childcare and other responsibilities.”

*To download the full report click here.

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