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Women more likely to take career break for caring responsibilities

A gender care gap is stopping women achieving their career potential, as they manage the majority of childcare and care for elderly relatives

Women are nearly three times more likely to have to take time off work to look after children, according to research by insurance agency AIG Life.

The study of 3,001 working adults showed that 74% of women are the main carer for children, taking short or long periods off work to look after family, compared with just 26% of men.

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However, there were signs of changing attitudes among younger generations. More than half (51%) of men under 35 said they are the main carer for their children, compared with 73% of women aged under 35.

A more balanced picture was also uncovered when it came to caring for elderly relatives; 76% of women believe they will be the main carer for an elderly relative compared to 62% of men. However, the research also found that just 33% of women who take time out of the workplace to be a carer plan to return to full-time jobs, compared to 59% of men.

While the women surveyed were found to generally enjoy their jobs more – with 58% saying they enjoy their work compared to 52% of men – this isn’t translating into achieving career potential. Forty-two per cent of men felt that they have overachieved in their career compared to 36% of women.

The research found there was no gender split on pay satisfaction as 38% of both men and women believe they are not paid enough.

When asked about their own future care, women were more likely to say they do not want to be a burden on their own children should they need care in the future. More than half (51%) of women said they would not want to burden their children, while just over a third (36%) of men felt the same.

Steve Collinson, head of HR for the UK at Zurich, said that the research underpins a need for more flexibility for working parents. "Most employers are aware that more needs to be done around flexible working for parents," he said.

"We knew that attitudes were changing, which is why we updated our policies to ensure men receive the same amount of parental leave and pay as women. It's only through introducing measures like this that you can have a really even playing field and ensure the best for your workers."

Zurich has received positive feedback on the move, he said: "Working together, employers and employees can do so much to bring about change. In our organisation more than 75% of employees take advantage of flexible working and we have visible role models at all levels – we firmly believe in the mantra ‘if you can see it you can be it'.

"We’ve also removed the financial hurdle that’s often in the way and equalised all forms of maternity, paternity and adoption leave – and men are coming forward to happily take their four months' paid leave to be with their young families. So equally we recognise that without a financial ‘penalty' dads are happy to do their part at such a formative time of their children’s lives."