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Human Resources

Men as breadwinners, women as caregivers still dictating workplace dynamics

Health Industry Hub | May 31, 2024 |

People & Culture: A nation-wide report has revealed that while many employers offer flexible work and parental leave policies, gender norms continue to underpin caring policies and attitudes within the workplace.

The 2024 National Working Families Report, based on data and insights from over 6200 Australian working families, underscores the prevalence of gender norms in shaping attitudes towards caring responsibilities within employment settings.

Despite the proliferation of flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies offered by many employers, the report highlights the enduring influence of traditional gender roles. It reveals that societal expectations still discourage men from utilising family-friendly workplace provisions, resulting in unequal access to paid parental leave. The perception of men as primary breadwinners and women as primary caregivers persists, amplifying the challenges faced by women balancing work and family duties.

Emma Walsh, CEO of Parents At Work, emphasised the timeliness of the report in an era where the boundaries between professional and personal life blur, particularly with the widespread adoption of remote and flexible work arrangements.

“These findings have profound implications, extending beyond individuals and families to impact businesses and the broader economy. Despite ongoing efforts by both government and business to improve gender equality outcomes, the survey reveals a lack of substantive progress between 2019 and 2024 to ease work and care pressures experienced by working parents and carers,” she explained.

However, the report also spotlights a positive correlation between organisational support for family-friendly policies and employee satisfaction. Families employed in certified Family Friendly Workplaces report fewer adverse effects on their work-life balance, indicating the tangible benefits of inclusive workplace practices.

“Australia continues to lag behind other OECD nations in the support offered to working parents and carers, putting the competitiveness of our economy at risk, and limiting the ability of Australian employers to attract high quality talent. Through easing these challenges, we can increase morale and productivity, decrease absenteeism, and promote gender equality. This, in turn, benefits the health and prosperity of our broader community and economy,” Walsh stated.

Nicole Breeze, Chief Advocate for Children at UNICEF Australia, said “The findings of the survey show that work-related stress is on the rise, negatively impacting home life and relationships. It reveals the persistence of gender norms, which hinder both women and men.”

She further added, “Family Friendly workplace policies are key to improving gender equality and promote thriving workplaces, in ways which reduce the negative impacts of stress. UNICEF Australia celebrates the contribution of employers who are taking action to support their workforce with policies that foster a balance between professional and family life, contributing to a healthier, more equitable, and productive society.”

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