By Catherine Hine, chief executive FASTN
Men and women care equally about how the workplace impacts on fast-changing families, our recent research shows. This finding challenges tired and outdated stereotypes of dads rushing off to pursue careers while casting hardly a glance over their shoulder to the family left at home.
FASTN polled 3,000 UK respondents who have been in their job for at least a year and asked them about how their families have changed, how supportive employers have been and what they would hope for from a future employer. You can read a fuller summary of the findings here: https://www.fastn.org/news/fast-changing-families
Astonishingly, over 70 per cent of respondents said that their family situation had changed whilst in their current employment – one in three (32 per cent) said it had changed a lot. The figure was even higher for younger people aged 16-24, where 82 per cent said that their family situation had changed.
Covid has imposed additional changes on employment, not least more working from home. It has created pressures on shared living spaces, blurred the distinctions between work and home, disrupted blended families, altered existing arrangements with grandparents over childcare and transformed chosen life partners into reluctant work colleagues.
This coming together of work and home, and employers’ role in recognising and responding to it, is a focus of this new research.
Similar attitudes from women and men
The findings suggest that attitudes to the relationship between work and family were very similar between men and women. For instance, almost one in three men (30%) cited workplace policies recognising that families change as most important to them in a place of work, compared to just over one in four women (27%).
The changes in family circumstances experienced by 70 per cent of our survey included the happy such as welcoming a new baby into the family home. They also included the difficult, such as bereavement and divorce or separation.
Yet, just one in five respondents (19 per cent) believed their place of work had policies in place that recognised the realities of their families.
The survey results support official figures showing that families are growing more diverse. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2019 there were 19.2 million families in the UK, a 6.8 per cent increase in a decade, with married or civil partner couples the most common family type, representing two-thirds of families in the UK.
However, single person households have increased by a fifth over the last 20 years, driven mainly by increases in men aged 45 to 64 years living alone. Those single men may be part of families living elsewhere. The 2.9 million single parent families in the UK accounted for 15 per cent of families.
Complex and diverse families
The FASTN survey found that few respondents felt their employers appreciated the complexity and diversity of today’s families. Just three in twenty (15 per cent) of employees caring for and living with an older or disabled relative and almost one in four (23 per cent) of those who are divorced or separated felt that this was the case. Overall, only 29 per cent of single parent employees agreed that their employers offered a living wage and secure contracts recognising family commitments.
It is when asked about what would make future employment attractive that employees clearly express the desire for workplaces that more clearly recognise the realities of family life.
Over two thirds of all respondents (69 per cent) said that a future employer’s track record on supporting families to thrive would be important to them. That increases to 76 per cent of single parent employees.
Your views please
What workplace changes would make a difference? FASTN is keen to hear your views.
What should employers be looking out for? And how can employees going through a sharp family transition be heard, recognised and have their needs addressed?
Families experiencing healthier, dependable relationships make for happier families, and individuals enjoying better health and well-being.
The FASTN research shows that men feel strongly about changes in family circumstances. Employers should be encouraged to take this on board, not least because a more contented workforce leads to better overall corporate performance.
Please email your thoughts to: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about FASTN please visit: www.fastn.org