Slow progress towards flexible working

A new survey finds workplaces moving towards a more flexible approach but it’s slow going. And it throws up some odd findings around the roles of working dads

fathers network scotland survey


UK workplaces are on a slow journey towards more flexible practices.

But a huge survey of thousands of parents found many reporting the barriers between work and home life are becoming blurred. And millions of working dads are still lying to their bosses or pretending to be sick so they can get time off to fulfil family commitments.

For the first time the Modern Families Index report saw more than half of those parents questioned agree that managers are concerned about work life balance. 55% of respondents said they felt confident discussing family related issues with bosses.

On both counts that’s a small increase on the same measure from five years ago.

Flexible working

However around a third of workers said flexible working was not available at their workplace. That’s despite further findings that people who use flexible working are less likely to change jobs. Though that is in part due to concerns that they won’t be able to find the same level of flexibility elsewhere.

Half of parents said flexible working and access to technology meant the boundary between work and home was now blurred. Nearly 50% admitted they check work emails in the evening. Three quarters of them felt they had no choice but to do so. Seven out of 10 said they felt stressed because they couldn’t switch off from work.

Working dads

The report threw up some strange results around working dads.

Although a third of parents say they share childcare equally by choice men still do significantly less domestic work than women. Men average 16 hours a week compared to 26 hours for women.

Similar proportions of mums and dads want a better work-life balance. And they say the way to achieve that is by reducing their hours. That sentiment is particularly strong among younger parents. Yet 40% of women work part time compared to just four per cent of dads. Inevitably that hits women’s earnings.

Short paternity leave and long maternity leave—and the fact more mothers than fathers reduce their hours when they return to work—perpetuates the idea of mothers as carers and fathers as workers, often to the detriment of both.

Better job design

Jane van Zyl, CEO of Working Families, said, “The research makes clear that jobs need to be ‘human-sized’. Employers who design roles that can be done in their contracted hours and encourage ‘switching off’ will feel the benefit of happier, healthier workers. Requiring employers to be proactive about offering flexible and part-time roles could be a catalyst for better job design. This is what we believe will ultimately deliver a better work-life balance for parents and carers.”

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