Practical polices for fair workplaces

13 February 2024 | Blogs, News, Resources, Dr Andy Clempson news

At the Daphne Jackson Trust, we endeavour to work with parliamentarians and associated organisations, to highlight the unwarranted issues faced by returning researchers, and advise positive action. As a valued source of expertise, it allows us to play a central role in influencing policy across research and innovation at the highest level.

Talented and highly trained researchers who are unable to return to research careers after a break for family, caring or health reasons represent a substantial loss to the UK economy. To close the skills shortage and be a growing UK research and innovation hub, these issues must be addressed.

Recently, the Trust have submitted recommendations in barriers to retention and career progression in STEM workplaces to the APPG on Diversity & Inclusion in STEM.

Call for action

In short we recommend three focus areas to the AAPG/policy makers that can address the career break penalty for women and boost the UK economy by £1.7bn:

  1. Better family leave policies

Ensuring that employers clarify expectations around family leave including its length, level of pay, eligibility and flexibility. We believe that STEM employers (such as Universities, Research Institutes, industry and beyond) should introduce a system of monitoring and reporting to ensure uptake of family leave is fair and equitable. Carer’s leave – including for those with tertiary care responsibilities – should be made much more visible to employees with clearer routes of how to take such leave, when it applies and the length of leave allowed. This work should also explore how the STEM sector can rethink the unpaid care work that many people do and how this work is valued.

  1. Greater childcare support

Improve publicly provided or subsidised early childhood education and care. Nearly three quarters of Daphne Jackson Fellows initially took their career break due to family reasons. Yet, the provision of early childhood care remains an enormous barrier that prevent many from returning to work, despite wanting to do so. The APPG has an opportunity to explore how this barrier can be overcome. One suggestion could be to ensure that parent(s) are compensated through more inclusive childcare funding to increase the affordability and avoid the necessity of career breaks in the first instance. The individual income caps that determine the access fto ree childcare often means that women are ineligible to be able to access government schemes due to their partners earning over the threshold. The most vulnerable groups, such as single mothers and those from minoritised backgrounds should also have more explicit support.

  1. Close the gender, ethnicity and pensions pay gap

Close the gender and ethnicity pay (salary and bonuses) and pensions gap. We believe that Government should continue to publish data on gender pay gap reporting, but also extend this to ethnicity pay gaps. The fact that women and minority ethnic groups are in some cases paid less than white men has no place in a modern STEM workforce. The APPG has an opportunity to explore how this might be undertaken.

We hope to see these recommendations considered to make greater equality and equity in STEM. By working together, we believe we can make positive change enabling researchers from all backgrounds to return to their research careers and succeed.

What can you do?

To continue to support research returners back to their career after a break for family, caring of health reasons, you can do these three things:

  1. Tell three people about Daphne Jackson Fellowships.
  2. Ask research funders how they are supporting returners…and if they aren’t, put them in touch with us!
  3. Find out more about how our Fellowships make a difference by reading our Impact Report and by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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