31% of parents who work flexibly have no control over where they work

Sarah Jackson OBE

Under a third (31%) of respondents who are parents and who work flexibly have no control or restricted control over where they work, according to research by Working Families and Bright Horizons.

Its 2018 Modern families index report, which surveyed 2,761 UK-based working parents with at least one dependent child aged 13 or under who lives with them some or all of the time, also found that 37% of respondents who have a flexible working arrangement feel burnt out all or most of the time, compared to 27% of respondents who do not work flexibly.

The research also found:

  • 25% of respondents who work on a flexible basis have restricted or no control over their working hours, and 20% have restricted or no control over their start and finish times.
  • 46% of respondents do not use flexible working arrangements, however 44% feel that flexible working is a genuine option for mothers and fathers in the workplace.
  • 10% of respondents have rejected a promotion because of the limited work-life balance opportunities.
  • 58% of male respondents identify work as their main cause of burnout, compared to 50% of female respondents.
  • 40% of respondents who are contracted to work 35 to 36 hours a week are putting in extra hours.
  • 34% of respondents who are contracted to work 25 hours a week are working extra hours, with 30% of this group clocking up approximately 35 hours a week.
  • 47% of respondents feel that work affects their ability to spend time together with their family.
  • 39% of respondents find that work prevents them from being able to say goodnight to their children often or all the time, 42% are unable to help their children with homework due to work commitments, and 28% state that their work causes arguments with their partner.
  • 38% of respondents feel that working overtime makes them eat less healthily, and 42% cite that overtime limits the exercise they can do.

Sarah Jackson (pictured), chief executive officer at Working Families, said: “For mothers and for fathers, becoming a parent looks like a bad career move. Because the norm for people who want to get ahead is still to show up early, leave late and be on email out of hours, and parents have less time to give, putting them at a disadvantage.

“Parents are responding to the pressures on them by acting, deliberately stalling and downshifting their careers. With more than 11 million working parents in the UK, our economy can ill afford this ‘parenthood penalty’. Our findings should be a wake-up call for UK [organisations].

“We need a more widespread, genuinely flexible approach to work. But on its own, flexible working is not enough if all it delivers is the flexibility to manage a bumper workload. We need human-sized jobs that allow parents to fulfil their labour market potential and give families back the time together they need to thrive. This should be central to the government’s forthcoming review of its right to request flexible working legislation.”

James Tugendhat, managing director, international at Bright Horizons, added: “The [report] highlights the UK’s long hours culture is putting severe strain on family life in the UK. Many parents are working unsustainable hours to make ends meet, returning home stressed and exhausted.

“There is great opportunity for families, employers and government to work collaboratively and find successful solutions which enable working parents to thrive both at home and in the workplace. We have seen fantastic examples of leading employers already addressing this important issue, however for those yet to do so we urge them to take action sooner rather than later. Families must see these in practice and embedded at all levels to feel confident in creating a work-life balance that truly works for them.”