Why we need a Big Conversation

We said in our introductory blog that there was still very much a need to have a conversation about work, families and parents. To some extent, it is a conversation we wish we didn’t have to have. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that we do – and that the problems faced by working families and parents are many.

Starting with women, pregnancy and maternity.  Back in 2005 the Equal Opportunities Commission estimated that 30,000 women a year were forced out of their jobs for being pregnant or whilst on maternity leave.  In 2015, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills did more research.  They found:

  • 1 in 9 mothers reported that they were dismissed, made redundant or treated so poorly that they felt that they had to leave their jobs.
  • 1 in 5 experienced harassment or negative comments.
  • 10% felt discouraged from attending antenatal appointments.

If we take the 1 in 9 figure and apply it to the whole population – this could mean that we are talking about 54,000 women.  Every year.

While you are letting that sink in for a moment, let’s look at the issues faced by carers in the workplace. We are facing an caring explosion here in the UK.  6000 people become a carer every single day.  1 in 5 of us at some point will be involved in providing care to someone close to us.  3 million people are trying to balancing caring and work – a figure that is only going to continue to increase.  Currently, 1 in 6 carers have to reduce their hours or give up work altogether in order to provide that care.

The TUC recently produced a report entitled ‘Better jobs for mums and dads’. They focused on the particular challenges of younger parents. Their perspective and evidence:

  • There are large numbers of parents, especially those who are low paid, who have not seen the benefits of family related employment rights.
  • The rise in insecure work like zero hours contracts or agency work means that many workers miss out on these rights altogether.
  • 51% of parents have an employer that has never spoken to them about policies that exist to help them balance work with childcare.
  • Over a third of young parents felt stigmatized at work because of needing flexibility to manage childcare.
  • 48% of men feel guilty when they bring up childcare issues at work.
  • 58% of parents know little or nothing about what legal rights they have at work in relation to family and children.
  • Key challenges that parents face are children becoming ill, school holidays and childcare provision – the latter being a particular problem when parents are required to work flexibly.

They go on to say: ‘Workplace culture is stuck in the past. Gender stereotypes are still rife in the workplace, with many employers viewing the mother as having the primary caring responsibilities’. 

There have been attempts to challenge these stereotypes through legislation – specifically the provision of Shared Parental Leave, designed to allow parents to share leave – but take up has been extremely low.

These are just some of the reasons that we believe a big conversation needs to take place.

Legislation exists, but it isn’t working. Policies exist too, but employees lack the ability or awareness to be able to access them.

So what else can HR practitioners do?  Join in the conversation and have your say.  #CIPDbigconvo

audio, band, black-and-white

1 thought on “Why we need a Big Conversation

  1. Have you seen the campaign by Anna Whitehouse a.k.a @mother_pukka about being a working parent? She’s been campaigning about this and she and @papa_pukka have just published a book. It’s called Parenting The Sh*t Out Of Life: For people who happen to be parents (or might be soon). Well worth a look 🙂


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