Gender norms skewing workplace family-friendly policies in Australia

Perceived gender norms are affecting family-friendly workplace policies, giving female employees more of a disadvantage in caregiving duties.
By: | May 13, 2024

While more workplaces in Australia are looking to push more policies that promote gender equality, a new study has shown that the challenges for working parents and caregivers to counter the pressures of family and work have not changed much in five years, with most of the strain faced by female employees.

These findings are part of the initial results from the 2024 National Working Families Report, which surveyed over 6,200 working parents and caregivers. The report compared these results with those from its 2019 edition to gauge shifts in family and employee behaviours amidst the global pandemic, especially with the rise of remote or flexible working arrangements.

Comparing the 2019 report with the initial findings of the 2024 report, the analysis revealed that female employees experience a greater burden of working pressures. The initial findings indicated that over 74% of female respondents feel stressed balancing work and family commitments, compared to 57% of male respondents, marking a 23% increase from the 2019 results.

The survey results also illuminate how gender norms affect family-friendly policies and workplace attitudes towards caregivers, tailored to the advantage of male employees. Nearly half of the male respondents (48%) were found to take less than one month of parental leave for the last child, in comparison to nearly all women (91%) taking longer than four months, as the male employees were not eligible for any parental leave longer than one month.

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“The findings reveal there is still a significant skew towards women bearing the majority of the caring load and household duties, nearly double that of men, despite working similar hours to them,” said Emma Walsh, CEO of Parents At Work. “The results suggest workplace cultures are geared towards supporting men as the primary income earner and women as the primary caregiver to the disadvantage of both men and women.”