New data reveals that while caregiving is challenging for everyone, it impacts women and men very differently in the workplace. While both genders have higher absence rates of a similar level to non-caregivers, male caregivers have a much higher level of presenteeism than female caregivers.

This shows how important it is for employers to understand how caregiving impacts men and women differently and put measures in place that address this.

Caregiving is defined as providing ongoing support to a friend, family member or neighbour due to illness, disability or older age. According to Carers UK around 2.3 million employees across the UK currently juggle work and care responsibilities.

Census data shows that women are 50% more likely to be carers than men and provide significantly more care when they do. This leads to underrepresentation in the workplace, underemployment and overall poorer career and outcomes for women. Financially, this contributes significantly to a gender pay and pension gap that won’t be resolved without addressing the challenge of caregiving.

The data collected by Fruitful Insights in association with Yurtle provides an interesting perspective on how gendered the caregiving experience is.

Compared to non-caregivers, women’s absence rates are 22% higher and men’s 18% 

This perhaps isn’t surprising, given that women are more likely to be caring and picking up most of the care when they do so alongside men. This leads to dual drivers of absence – their caring responsibilities and illness caused by the toll of caregiving.

More revelatory on the different experiences of men and women is around presenteeism. Employees were asked ‘Have you worked when you were unwell physically or mentally?’ Here are the results:

Compared to non-caregivers again, presenteeism was 23% higher for men but only 2% higher for women

The picture this presents is complex and nuanced and perhaps is due to the different ways that men and women balance work and care, and the expectations placed on each by employers and themselves.

Only around 20% of men are a primary caregiver, meaning that while they may be more likely to show up to work when unwell, they are able to do so because in most cases a woman in their circle or team of carers is able to focus on caregiving. Conversely, women often don’t have this option.

Women are far more likely than men to be working flexibly than men. TUC (Trades Union Congress) notes that women are:

  • Three times more likely to work part-time than men
  • Over four times as likely to work term-time only
  • Three times more represented in job-share arrangements

This means that they are less likely to need to ‘show up’ at work when unwell due to the increased flexibility that their working patterns afford them.

Mike Tyler, Chairman of Fruitful Insights said:

We believe that the combination of an ageing workforce often with elderly parents and a large group of employees often having children later in life could spell double trouble for many employees. We were intrigued to identify any emerging patterns to help employers develop a more nuanced response to the challenge. Our data suggests that employers that recognise the different pressures men and women caregivers face will be better placed to introduce more effective support.

Mike Tyler, Chairman of Fruitful Insights

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.