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ESRC Impact Acceleration Account: Boosting the Wellbeing of Working Parents

Project: Other


Our aim is to boost the wellbeing and resilience of UK working parents through a program of impact acceleration targeted at organisations to improve practical support for employees with caring responsibilities.

Layperson's description

Our research found that labour market practices create hardship for many working parents, with current policies failing to recognise 1) the broad array of diverse family situations and 2) how these families need different, flexible and responsive modes of support as pathways to wellbeing (Ashman et al, 2022; Radcliffe et al, 2021; Schaefer, Gatrell and Radcliffe, 2020). In a crisis (e.g., family illness), parents have a ‘hierarchy’ of support options. Dependent on economic, family, social and other circumstances, these hierarchies range from preferred, lower-stress options, such as support from a relative, to more stressful options, such as paying for an unfamiliar childminder at short notice. Different families have different hierarchies, and those outside the traditional ‘nuclear’ model (e.g., single parents) tend to have shorter hierarchies and fewer lower-stress options in emergencies. This hampers parental resilience because a crisis could rapidly exhaust all support options. Our research revealed two key challenges: 1) family friendly policies such as flexible working tend to assume a traditional nuclear model of family, meaning they were not effective in diverse circumstances (e.g., flexible working was targeted at women more than men); 2) line manager attitudes or misunderstandings prevented employees from finding workable solutions, which in turn led to stress and even to resignations (Ashman et al, 2022). Managers tended to respond to working parental challenges through the lens of their own experience and awareness, meaning they were less able to consider alternative options.
Short title£14,356
Effective start/end date1/01/2231/12/22
  • Patterson, Anthony (Principal Investigator)
  • Ashman, Rachel (Co-Investigator)
  • Radcliffe , Laura (Co-Investigator)
  • Gatrell, Caroline (Co-Investigator)