National Working Families report released
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Parents At Work and UNICEF Australia release National Working Families Report

Parents At Work and UNICEF Australia release National Working Families Report

by Freya Lucas

June 03, 2024

Social-impact advisory and learning provider Parents At Work has teamed up with UNICEF Australia to publish the 2024 National Working Families Report which aims to provide meaningful change to working parents and carers in their work-life juggle through actionable recommendations to employers and government, supported by data and insights.


Analysing the experience of more than 6200 Australian working families, the Report analyses comparable data from the inaugural 2019 National Working Families Survey and this year’s survey responses to measure the impact of changing workplace trends on working parents and carers. 


In gauging the experiences, needs and challenges of respondents five years on, the Report also provides anecdotes from respondents on the pressures and demands they face and provides practical actions for employers and policymakers to drive change and better support employees facing work-life conflicts. 


The survey results clearly show that employers that embrace family-inclusive policies and practices are having an impact, and that working parents and carers who work for certified Family Friendly Workplaces reported fewer negative impacts and were more satisfied with their work life balance overall. 


Despite this, the report highlights that while many employers offer flexible work and parental leave policies, gender norms continue to underpin caring policies and attitudes within the workplace. Survey respondents reported that it is still less acceptable for men to use family-friendly workplace arrangements or leave, and that men generally have less access to paid parental leave than women. 


As such, stereotypes relating to men as the primary income earner and women as the primary caregiver have remained largely entrenched in attitudes towards workplace arrangements and entitlements – adding further stress to women juggling work and caring responsibilities. 


The report comes at a time where awareness of the impacts of gender inequality and poor workforce wellbeing is prominent, and policy makers are making it a top priority. 


“These findings have far-reaching implications, impacting not only individuals and their families but also reverberating throughout businesses and the broader economy,” Emma Walsh, CEO of Parents At Work said, commenting on the issuing of the report at a time when “the boundaries between work and personal life continue to blur” as many workplaces embrace remote and flexible work. 


Of particular concern is the persistent gender divide and the heightened stress experienced by women juggling work and caregiving responsibilities, she continued.  


Despite ongoing efforts by both government and business to improve gender equality outcomes, the survey reveals a lack of substantive progress between 2019 and 2024 to ease work and care pressures experienced by working parents and carers. 


The findings explored in the report offer insight into persisting challenges faced by working families and offers practical and actionable recommendations to tackle these issues within Australian workplaces including: 


For employers: 


  1. Invest in and progress Paid Parental Leave (PPL) schemes. This includes aligning on best practice standards such as paid superannuation during PPL and 18-26 weeks PPL to new parents, ensuring caring policies are gender-neutral and removes primary and secondary carer labels, and remove tenure requirements from PPL to help tackle gender-biased hiring decisions and career-related discrimination. 

  2. Provide equitable access to family-friendly workplace policies that are fully inclusive of all employees regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, cultural background, length of service or family type. 

  3. Invest in employee mental health and wellbeing to help relieve workplace stress levels. This includes devising and implementing a wellbeing strategy linking employees’ caring needs and the importance of work-life balance with physical and mental health; promoting education and caring support program; and creating open and safe channels for employees to discuss job stress, workloads and external work challenges. 

  4. Evaluate the cost benefit of being a family-friendly workplace and build a business case for change by measuring and improving family-friendly work practices. This should include benchmarking against industry standards and engaging employees to define solutions that meet their diverse needs effectively. 

  5. Develop policies and offer provisions that address the diversity of carer needs. Examples include developing a formal care policy or guidelines that meet increasingly diverse carer needs and supporting with access to affordable early childhood education and care, before and after school care and vacation care. 


For government and policymakers:


  1. Increase affordability and access of early childhood education and care (ECEC) for all children and families. This includes ensuring that the major investments being made in reducing the cost of childcare is not neutralised by cost of living pressures, and boosting the participation of vulnerable families in high-quality and affordable ECEC. 

  2. Continue to drive uptake in progressive reforms to gender neutral Paid Parental Leave (PPL). One example is to accelerate the reform of the Commonwealth’s PPL scheme to enhance its length, flexibility, accessibility, and gender equity. 

  3. Continue to drive the Government’s new gender equality strategy, Working for Women: A Strategy for Gender Equality, by improving transparency around the gender pay gap and boosting women’s leadership and representation across all levels of government and non-government sectors. 

  4. Embed family-friendly policies as a key strategy in the workplace and consider adopting the National Work and Family Standards, a framework that offers a structured approach for employers to enhance family-friendly policies and practices. 

  5. Invest in research to improve and enhance the National Working Families Survey for future trends and comparisons with an emphasis on expanding the diversity of Australian families represented. 


“Australia continues to lag behind other OECD nations in the support offered to working parents and carers, putting the competitiveness of our economy at risk, and limiting the ability of Australian employers to attract high quality talent,” Ms Walsh said. 


“Supporting working parents and carers in Australia and promoting the fair share of work and caregiving responsibilities can significantly improve wellbeing outcomes for Australian families. Through easing these challenges, we can increase morale and productivity, decrease absenteeism, and promote gender equality. This, in turn, benefits the health and prosperity of our broader community and economy.” 


The 2024 National Working Families Report is a not-for-profit initiative commissioned by Parents At Work and UNICEF Australia, and was undertaken independently by Deloitte Access Economics and supported by corporate and community partners including QBE, The Parenthood and Karitane.


Access the report here

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