Employers need to care more about carers


The 2017-18 data is in and it shows that access to paid parental leave has stalled for carers of both genders. This is a disappointing result, as employees of both genders try to combine work with their caring responsibilities as a normal part of life.

Parental leave

Paid parental leave encourages and supports women and men in their role as both employees and carers. Unfortunately, five years of WGEA data reveals that growth in access to parental leave for primary and secondary carers has all but flatlined.

  • Over half of employers do not provide paid primary carer’s leave in addition to the government scheme. In 2013-14, 48.5% of employers offered primary carers leave. In 2017-18 this figure dropped by 0.7 percentage points to 47.8%.
  • There was a slightly better improvement with secondary carer’s leave. It saw a 3.0 percentage point increase from 38.8% of employers in 2013-14 to 41.8% in 2017-18.
  • For the first time in three years, the proportion of employers offering non-leave based measures to support employees with caring responsibilities has increased (up 1.8pp to 53.7%).

Flexible work

A culture that supports both women and men to adopt flexible working practices or part-time work is one that supports employees with their caring responsibilities.

  • Fortunately, more employers are prioritising flexible work year-on-year, with a 13.2 percentage point increase in organisations adopting a flexible working policy or strategy between 2013-14 to 2017-18.
  • This year’s data shows 7 in 10 organisations promote flexible work in this way.
  • However, just one in four provide manager training on flexible work and not even one in 20 set targets for employee engagement in flexible work.

These results show a lack of accountability towards the practical implementation of flexible work for Australian employees.

Gender divide in roles persists

There is an unequal distribution of care work that falls more greatly on the shoulders of women. This unequal distribution entrenches gender stereotypes, such as ‘the male breadwinner’ and ‘the female homemaker’.

Encouraging men to utilise parental leave and engage in flexible work are key enablers to increasing women’s workforce participation and upward career trajectories.

However, our data shows that the carer divide between genders remains firm:

  • Women account for 94.9% of all primary carer’s leave utilised with men accounting for only 5.1%.
  • Overall, women account for 72.2% of all carer’s leave while men comprise the remaining 27.8%.
  • Less than two in 100 employers have set targets for men's engagement in flexible work.

Employers must prioritise strategies and actions that support carers – and in particular men.

Gender equality: five years of progress