At the end of May 2020 the first ever employment support project at GMCVO focusing on parents and carers came to a close. This 12-month project was funded by the Government Equalities Office, and delivered with support from GM Chamber of Commerce. Over the course of the project we have worked with 85 Returners (parents and/or carers looking to return to paid employment). We worked with 23 different employment support organisations across Greater Manchester to link Returners to local employability support, as well as sharing online resources and opportunities in our regular bulletins and on our Facebook page.
Employers engaged with the project also offered a range of pre-employment opportunities to Returners. These included workplace visits where a group of Returners could meet an employer in situ and gain a better understanding of the variety of jobs available and the recruitment process, as well as the support offered to parents and carers in that organisation. Some employers were able to offer an informal version of this to individual Returners, offering individual meetings or telephone calls from mid- March when visits were no longer feasible.
What we learnt about the Returners we worked with?
As we anticipated, the vast majority of Returners were female. Research has shown that women often return to work in part-time, less senior roles in order to find the flexibility they need to be able to balance work with care. The economic impact of this on women is that they work fewer hours and for a lower hourly rate when returning to work, despite having more experience to offer organisations on their return. Of the Returners that provided information about their educational level, most were degree level educated, which makes returning to a lower skilled role in order to be able to balance work with care even more ineffective.
The majority of Returners on this project were aged in their forties. This means that they are likely to be ineligible for employability support for carers, which is often targeted at the over 50s. We were able to raise this as an issue with the DWP and have been working with them to provide more specialist support for carers using Jobcentres.
Over half of Returners identified themselves as being “sandwich carers”: having both parental responsibilities for children as well as caring responsibilities for an adult. The need to find roles with employers that have good flexible working practice is particularly important for these Returners.
“My confidence has grown through attending events such as the Breaking Down Barriers workshops and the Panel. It’s very isolating being at home, so pushing myself to attend meetings with people I didn’t previously know; talking to them and hearing their stories has helped me develop my confidence that I could do this in a work setting.” (quote from a Returner who successfully returned to paid employment)
Work with employers:
In total we worked with 56 different employers across the region from a variety of sectors, from micros to large employers, to support them to better understand the value that Returners bring to the workplace; how to attract skilled and experienced Returners; and how to retain carers in the workforce. To this end we developed a series of three toolkits to help improve employers’ understanding of flexible working; how to attract Returners and how to avoid unconscious bias in recruitment.
“Caring, Working, Living is an important project that reminds me of the potential I’m missing in people who don’t get through my recruitment.” (quote from an employer who attended a CWL Panel)
Whilst Caring, Working, Living has now finished, GMCVO remains committed to promoting social, economic and political inclusion for everyone that lives and works in Greater Manchester. As such, we will continue to work with the DWP to support them to improve their support for carers. We are using our research report “Flexible Working: the role of jobs boards in better promoting flexible work” to try to make it easier for those seeking flexible opportunities to find them. We will continue to work with the GM Good Employment Charter to support them to improve working conditions for those working in the region.
Click here to find out more about the work that GMCVO does to support employment in the region.
The team would like to thank everyone that took part in the project. The full infographic can be downloaded below.