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Fathers are experiencing workplace discrimination for taking on caregiver responsibilities

by News Desk

Women are often the main focus in the caregiving conversation, but a new report reveals that working fathers trying to shoulder more care of their children feel discriminated against in the workplace. 

Melbourne University’s 2023 State of the Future of Work report finds male caregivers see fewer opportunities for advancement, have greater difficulty concentrating at work, have less time to get work done, are less productive and have a greater desire to quit than males without caregiving demands. 

Findings show half of male caregivers report feeling exhausted compared to a third of men without caregiving demands.

Shared caring responsibilities are a key to gender equality and the report calls these findings “critical” as more men will need to step into caregiving roles to support ageing populations.

“Workplaces have historically focused on women’s caregiving, leaving a tremendous gap for the male caregivers,” says the report, adding that the pandemic caused many ongoing problems.

Results show 48 per cent of workers with caregiving responsibilities feel they are working harder than pre-pandemic compared to about 37 per cent of workers without caregiving responsibilities. 

The lead author of the study, Professor Leah Ruppanner told the Sydney Morning Herald that “the pandemic provided many men the opportunity to step into caregiving roles” but that this report shows these fathers “are suffering in the same way women have for ever and ever: discrimination at work.” 

Caregivers require targeted interventions to support their employment, and the report recommends that a portion of high wage replacement paid parental leave be reserved for fathers in a use-it or lose-it agreement.

Workplace policies targeted towards caregivers and flexible work were key policy needs identified by caregivers in the report’s survey. 

The 2023 report uncovered a number of other key findings, including that workplace discrimination is more prevalent and nuanced than previously thought, chronic illness is an increasing problem in the workplace, flexible workers miss their colleagues but are still happy and productive, prime aged workers report worse workplace health two years into the pandemic and Australian workers are unsure how AI will impact their skills and jobs. 

Drawn from a sample of 1,400 Australian workers from a national panel provided by YouGov, the data represents workers from all six states and two territories. 

The average survey respondent was 41-years-old, university-educated and working full time. 

“The future of work is the future of care,” says the report.

“The ageing of Australia’s population, the growth of the mature-aged workforce, the intensification of caregiving demands and workplace discrimination faced by marginalised groups create major future challenges.”

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