Each year, the Modern Families Index provides a comprehensive insight into how UK working families are managing the balance between career and family life. Are employers being family friendly? Is care equally distributed at home? How are parents managing childcare while working? Now in its eighth year, the report answers questions like this and more, with the 2020 report surveying 3,090 UK working parents and carers.

This year, we are able to compare the UK results with the new National Working Families Report that was launched by Parents At Work last year – a study that asked similar questions about the balance between work and family in our own country, with over 6000 Australian parents and carers surveyed. Both reports provide valuable insights into the lives of parents and carers, tell us what’s working and what’s not, and pinpoint the issues that need addressing - by government and businesses - if we are to truly support our employees in the demands of everyday life and caring demands.

Below is a snapshot of some of the findings of the Modern Families Index 2020, and how they compare or relate to Australia’s current statistics. For the full MF Index 2020, download it here.

Do people see their workplace as family friendly?

“Comparing what working parents reported in 2015 to today, it’s clear the UK’s employers are on a journey toward more flexible and family friendly workplaces.”

– Modern Families Index 2020

  • More than half (55%) of working parents in the Index said they feel confident discussing family-related issues with their employer, rising from 47% in the 2015 Index. More than half (53%) of parents feel their line manager cares about their work-life balance. This is compared to 45% of parents in 2015.
  • In Australia, only one third of parents felt they received interest and support from their managers. Just over one fifth of respondents had made a request for flexible work in the past 12 months which had been refused, and one of the primary reasons given for this refusal was a general lack of support from managers and leaders.

We know that leadership plays a massive role in creating the type of family-friendly workplace culture that enables both men and women to be feel comfortable not just requesting flexible work options, but using the policies that organisations offer. Managers play an integral role in this culture, and by displaying support and role-modelling family-friendly policies themselves, workplace culture will shift and any stigma around parents or carers using these policies will be a thing of the past.

How are people feeling about their work/life balance?

 “Too often, the potential wellbeing benefits of family-friendly and flexible working are being undermined by poor job design and workplaces where working extra hours is part of the culture.”

– Modern Families Index 2020

  • In the UK, three in five parents who work extra hours said they have to because it is the only way to deal with their workload. Parents staying in ‘work mode’ were more likely to say work impacts negatively on their relationship with their partner and their children, and parents who tend to work extra hours were more than twice as likely to think about work issues whilst they are with their family regularly or all the time.
  • Similarly in Australia, one third of parents and carers reported that the combination of work and family responsibilities contributed to stress and tension in the relationship with their partners and with their children, and half of those (52%) returning from parental leave reported significant levels of fatigue, with 34% of mothers also feeling worried and anxious, and 24% feeling depressed and sad.

It seems that in both the UK and Australia, there is work to be done when it comes to supporting employees in their work-life integration. By providing family-friendly arrangements that allow both parents and carers to better balance their lives as both caregivers and employees, people are better equipped to enjoy their families whilst pursuing their chosen career with flexibility.

How are parents managing work and child care?

“Manageable workloads, flexible working and a supportive employer help parents to be more involved in childcare.” – Modern Families Index 2020

  • In the UK, there is a link between parents’ workload and their involvement in childcare. For 67% of parents in the Index who tend to work extra hours, their partner does the majority of their childcare. Of working parents in the Index who said their employer cares about their work life balance, 57% do the majority of the childcare. 37% of parents that don't work flexibly do the majority of childcare.
  • In the National Working Families Report, 38% of Australians said that access to child care at work and / or child care rebates from their employer would help them manage the demands of work/home.

The latest UK Index shows definite improvement in some areas, and this is to be celebrated. Family-friendly workplaces are increasing, and this is impacting directly on parents and carers ‘sharing the care’ more equally. And while both the Index and the National Working Families Report show us the areas that need definite improvement, this can be a positive thing if we heed these results and take action.

The statistics are there for us to learn from – we know what parents and carers, in the UK and Australia, need: flexible work options, child care, a family-friendly workplace culture, and more. Now we need to take steps to implement these supports and create the workplaces that our employees are asking for – where they are supported, valued and fulfilled in their dual roles as caregivers and employees.


To read the full Modern Families Index 2020, visit here.

To read the full National Working Families Report, visit here.

Learn more about making your workplace family-friendly by joining the Advancing Parental Leave Equality Network (APLEN) here.

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