Call for action on part-time working

An All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Work meeting yesterday heard calls for more action to help employers manage part-time workers.

Part time working or full time working spelled out in dice

 

Employers need more information and guidance about how to manage part-time working so that they can better meet demand for different ways of working, an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Work heard yesterday.

The meeting on the cost of living crisis heard about new research from Cranfield School of Management about whether part-time furlough has helped employers to develop the capability to manage part-time workers.

Professor Clare Kelliher from Cranfield School of Management said the cost of living crisis had seen two contrasting trends in relation to part-time work. It was making part-time working less attractive because more people want to work full time or increase their hours. Yet at the same time many people were looking to supplement their income by taking on a part-time job on the side of other employed or self-employed work.

The School’s 18-month study was based on research showing employers often struggle with offering part-time work because of problems, such as over organisation cover and ensuring continuity of service for their clients. Yet demand for part-time work is high. The furlough scheme had forced some employers to engage in what Dr Charlotte Gascoigne said could be seen as a “natural experiment in part-time working’ by supporting employers to bring people back on a part-time basis.

The study showed that this had had a positive impact on managers’ capability around managing part-time working and their openness to it. Forty-two per cent of employers said they were more open to part-time working as a result, with their experience disproving their bias. This broadened the conversation about part-time working.

Dr Gascoigne talked about the need to encourage trials for part-time working – similar to those for the four-day week – to create momentum so that part-time working can work for individuals and businesses.

She said it was about helping employers to design work for a wide range of people who need less than full-time hours. “Employers need to get better at it and to stop thinking of part-time working as an exception,” she stated, questioning where the notion of full-time work had originated – from a gendered model which mainly relied on women doing all the caring work for free.

The meeting also heard from Labour MP Kate Osamor who called for pay rises for public sector workers on the frontline that match inflation and said women needed to be seen and heard more in the fight for better pay. She said women should be at the forefront of conversations about the cost of living crisis as they are disproportionately affected, particularly single mothers.

Jess Cook, Project Development Manager at National Energy Action, talked about the widespread impact of energy poverty on mental health and on parents’ interactions with their children. She called for Universal Credit to rise in line with inflation and for other initiatives, such as more support for lower income families with energy costs through an energy social tariff and widening access to free school meals to all children whose families are in receipt of Universal Credit.

Claire Reindorp, Chief Executive Officer of the Young Women’s Trust, outlined findings in a survey the Trust had run earlier in the year which showed a widening of the gap around financial security between young men and women. Over half of young women said they were filled with dread when thinking of their household finances, compared to 42% of men, for instance. Young women earned a fifth less than men, said Reindorp, and were in greater financial precarity than men, with evidence showing some women being paid less than men for doing the same job or being paid less than the minimum wage. She too called for benefits to rise in line with inflation, for the extension of the National Living Wage to younger people and for more support to get young women into work, including a day one right to request flexible working and more flexible childcare to fit around shift work.



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