Almost two thirds of businesses are reporting a significant increase in the number of female workers taking leave due to caring duties, with fewer men doing so.

According to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development in Ireland, parents and carers - particularly female ones - are experiencing major challenges to their careers during the pandemic.

The survey found that 63% of respondent companies had experienced either a "significant" or "small" increase in women taking time off for family or caring obligations.

However, only 40% reported a rise in the number of men taking time out on the same grounds - and the rate of increase for males was "small" rather than "significant".

Half of respondents (50%) said supervisors and managers had to redistribute work among staff to facilitate caring issues in the workforce.

30% of employers reported that other colleagues were voicing dissatisfaction at having to handle the redistribution of work to facilitate those with caring difficulties.

Almost half of the 400 businesses surveyed (45%) felt childcare or caring responsibilities would affect advancement in someone's career.

Almost four in every five respondents (79%) suggested childcare and caring caused problems for remote workers, while 64% reported that caring posed difficulties for people returning to on-site work.

The survey was carried out by CIPD Ireland with the Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick.

CIPD Ireland Director Mary Connaughton said the figures revealed the dilemmas facing families across the country, with carers and parents in this situation caught "between a rock and a hard place".

"The caring they need to do can get in the way of their job when they're working from home, but it also makes it more difficult for them to get back to the office or other workplace," Ms Connaughton noted.

She noted that many employers were concerned about the risk of "burnout" for employees who had to accept adapted work arrangements to facilitate those with caring duties.

"Employers really need to show as much flexibility and consideration as they can. For now, we can hope the phased re-opening of schools will alleviate some of the pressure on families and the vaccine rollout will mean we don't have to face a return to severe restrictions".

However, Ms Connaughton warned that while many employers would do their best to be flexible and accommodate those with caring needs, there could be a need for "tough decisions" as to what work they could do. 

CIPD Ireland is part of an international body with 150,000 members globally, and 6,000 in Ireland. 

It focuses on Human Resources, learning and improving working practices by addressing areas including employee wellbeing, diversity, and guarding against harassment and bullying.