What is the sandwich generation?
The sandwich generation is a modern term for an age-old scenario. There comes a time when caring responsibilities go up and down a generation. Women, as it still tends to be women who carry the brunt of caring, are caring for children or teenagers and elderly relatives at the same time. A poll of 2000 people estimates that 1 million people in the UK are in the so called sandwich generation. It also found that 44% of those caring for people are balancing full time work with approx. 19 hrs a week caring for an elderly relative and twice that caring for their children. The pressure we have seen on the care sector has intensified the pressure on families caring for the sick and elderly.
This can force women into a situation where they have to give up work or reduce hrs and subsequently is pushing women’s participation in the labour market to the lowest level in 30 yrs. This also means that the number of women in leadership roles has been negatively affected. The average age of a woman taking up a non-executive directorship is between 42-57 exactly the point in life when women are forced out of the workplace due to caring responsibilities. This is reflected in the fact that just 12% of board positions are held by women. This is a serious issue for businesses as without proper representation of women in the boardroom the economy is unable to perform as effectively as it could.
So what can be done to address the pay gap, allow women to stay in work and encourage them into leadership roles.
First and perhaps the most obvious answer is affordable childcare. If someone is working just to pay childcare they may feel forced into leaving the workforce as it just isn’t worth it financially. Why would you want to hand over a large % of your wage to someone to look after your child for long hrs.
Flexibility is also key as it is clear that the traditional 9-5 office hrs will prove difficult or impossible for someone with caring responsibilities. Businesses can also champion diversity and inclusiveness ensuring roles are filled by people with a range of leadership qualities and where necessary women are supported by mentors to meet and achieve targets. Companies need to be aware that whilst family friendly policies are great and will make them more attractive to employees that family friendly is not limited to those with small children, elderly relatives also need care and in fact elderly care responsibilities may increase as the requirements for time off for young children may ease slightly or change as they start school. So flexible working needs to be truly flexible and inclusive.
Companies need to understand the changing demographics of the workforce, as women enter the workforce after graduating companies need to understand and support the changing needs of employees particularly women through life – becoming parents, the demands of a young family, maybe returning to the workforce after a career break and then a further need for flexibility to care for elderly relatives. If a company is open to those changes and willing to be flexible the employee and employer can journey together through the ups and downs of working life.
Contact us to see if we can help with a flexible working policy