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Dismantling the caregiving status quo could ease working parents’ burden

By Kace O'Neill | |5 minute read
Dismantling The Caregiving Status Quo Could Ease Working Parents Burden

Despite efforts to progress gender equality in workplaces, concerning new research reveals that challenges for working parents to find the balance between the two have not shifted over the past five years.

Results from the recent National Working Families Report have shown that working families are seemingly more stressed than ever, with the effects of that stress being felt at a higher rate by women. According to the report, 74 per cent of women felt stressed balancing work and family commitments, compared with 57 per cent of men.

These statistics have had an increase over the past five years, increasing from the 51 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men who reported feeling stressed in 2019.


The report highlights the effect of gender norms underpinning family-friendly policies and workplace attitudes, with workplace cultures still being fixated on supporting men as the primary income earners.

Nearly half (48 per cent) of men were found to take less than one month of parental leave for their last child. On the other hand, nearly all women (91 per cent) take longer than four months.

Further, the most common reason cited by men for taking too short a paid parental leave period was that they were not eligible for longer based on their employer’s policy, at 51 per cent.

Nicole Breeze, chief advocate for children at UNICEF Australia, said: “Over the past year, there has been a lot of debate about what the new normal for workplaces should look like – with some reverting to pre-COVID-19 life of fully back in the office and others granting flexibility, but with grey boundaries that can make employees feel like they’re ‘always on’ or being judged.”

“The results of these things are clear – it’s really disappointing to see that employees, particularly women, are more stressed than ever, feeding into family life. Life as a parent is made harder when you’re worried that your job commitment is being questioned, or too drained to contribute to your family when you get home from work.”

Family-friendly policies are meant to alleviate these stress levels for parent workers, yet if they are not accepted or supported within the workplace or are somewhat ostracised in terms of the workplace culture, then the policies are negated.

It’s crucial that these policies are accepted and supported within the culture, and the employers must set the tone for these being integrated into the workplace status quo.

“We know that family-friendly policies such as flexible work and parental leave are valuable for the wellbeing of working parents and their children, but we must make these more accepted and the norm in workplaces, for men and women,” Breeze said.

“It is good for gender equality, and by supporting the wellbeing of parents and carers, we can safeguard the wellbeing of the children or loved ones in their care – to be happy, healthy and safe.”



Your organization's culture determines its personality and character. The combination of your formal and informal procedures, attitudes, and beliefs results in the experience that both your workers and consumers have. Company culture is fundamentally the way things are done at work.

Parental leave

Parental leave is a benefit offered to employees that allows for job-protected time off from work to care for a kid once the child is born or adopted.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.