Over half of men want to be more involved in childcare, major new report claims

More than half of men who have children or other caring responsibilities want to be more involved in childcare, a new study commissioned by Business in the Community, in partnership with Santander UK, has found. The Equal Lives research asked 10,225 UK parents for their views on work and care, and found that traditional gender roles in caring are seen as increasingly outdated, with 85 percent of men believing that they should be as involved as women in caring for their children.

But while social attitudes have changed, in reality the unequal division of care for children remains stark. According to the research, women are eight times as likely as men to take the lead in caring for children. The gap closes where there is an adult in the family who needs care, with women 1.5 times as likely to take the lead as men, but it is clear that women continue to shoulder the bulk of family care.

Key findings:

  • 56 percent of men with children or other family responsibilities want to be more involved in caring
  • 85 percent of men think they should be as involved as women in caring for children, yet women are still eight times as likely to take the main caring role
  • 66 percent of men would make use of family-friendly employer policies if they were confident that spending more time on caring would not impact their career prospects

The study identified a variety of perceived cultural barriers in the workplace holding men back from greater involvement at home. Fathers reported that visibility of their parental role among managers and colleagues was low in comparison to motherhood, with respondents reporting they felt under pressure to appear unrestricted by caring responsibilities at work or risk losing out on opportunities for career progression.

Sixty six per cent of men said they would make use of family-friendly policies offered by their employers such as flexible working and Shared Parental Leave, if they were confident that spending more time on caring would not impact their career prospects.

Financial barriers were also found to play an important role. Despite men wanting to be more involved in caring, participants in the survey reported defaulting to traditional gender roles for financial reasons. Nearly half of men aged under 35 (48 percent) said they did not take Shared Parental Leave because they couldn’t afford to reduce their earnings. According to national statistics women remain more likely to have the lower paid job, and maternity leave continues to be financially supported to a greater extent than Shared Parental Leave.

Chloe Chambraud, gender equality director, Business in the Community, said: “Women’s careers are still most affected by taking on the burden of care for dependent children and adults. But men are now telling us they want to be more involved at home and employers need to catch up. We will never achieve equality in the workplace and the gender pay gap will never close if employers don’t support equality at home.”

The Equal Lives report makes a series of recommendations for employers. These include:

  • Encourage flexible working options to both men and women in all job roles, at all levels, wherever possible;
  • Consider offering enhanced Shared Parental Leave and paid leave for carers;
  • Address employees’ perception that caring may harm their career prospects by:
  • Sharing success stories of parents and carers who are working flexibly and/or taking up family-friendly policies; and
  • Providing line managers with training and advice on how to better support employees who need to balance work and family responsibilities.
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