Research by Bright Horizons and Working Families found almost two-fifths (37 per cent) of UK working parents state that flexible working is not a genuine option in their workplace, despite all employees having the legal right to request flexible working.
The Modern Families Index 2019 report, which surveyed 2,750 working parents and carers with at least one dependant aged 13 or younger who lives with them some or all of the time, found that 86 per cent of respondents want to work flexibly, and yet only 49 per cent do (47 per cent of fathers and 51 per cent of mothers).
When asked why they chose to work flexibly, 63 per cent of parents did so for childcare reasons, while 31 per cent did for their wellbeing. Recent statistics said that there was a five per cent increase in satisfaction with a work-life balance when working flexibly, and a 10 per cent rise in satisfaction by being able to take time off for childcare.
More than 10 per cent of women surveyed said they had to downshift into a lower job to get access to a better work-life balance, while 65 per cent of mothers said they would stay in their current job because they don’t believe they will get the flexibility they have elsewhere.
Chief executive officer at Working Families, Jan van Zyl, commented:
“Parents who work part-time and flexibly add immense value to an organisation. This year’s Index shows the sad reality that very often, part-times aren’t able to progress at work because a higher value is placed on full-time work, and there is simply more of it.”
Director of Employer Partnerships at Bright Horizons, Denise Priest, found the issue of high workloads and blurred boundaries to appear repeatedly in the survey, which resulted in parents either staying late on at their workplace, or responding to emails once they had left. Fifty-one per cent of those surveyed said they dipped into work after hours, despite having flexible working. Ms Priest concluded:
“We need to look more realistically at the design of job roles, and ways of ensuring that flexibility works both ways and is well supported.”