Part-time mums most likely to say flexible working bias harmed their career

A third of all UK workers believe those who work flexibly create more work for others, according to a new study which finds a similar proportion believe their career will suffer if they use flexible working arrangements.

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Analysing data from the 2011 Work-Life Balance Survey conducted by the government, Dr Heejung Chung from the University of Kent examined whether stigma against flexible workers exists, who is most likely to hold such beliefs and who is most likely to suffer from it.

The research also found that the majority of respondents who held negative views against flexible workers were male, while women and especially mothers were the ones who were most likely to suffer from such stereotypes.

One out of five workers (18 percent) said they had experienced direct negative career consequences as a result of working flexibly.

Women, especially mothers who worked part-time and on reduced hours, rather than full-time workers who work flexibly – i.e. teleworking or on flexitime – who reported that their careers were negatively impacted by working flexibly. On the other hand, men, especially fathers (almost half of the respondents), were likely to report that their own jobs were negatively impacted due to others working flexibly.

Dr Chung said: ‘It is clear there are still many people who view flexible working as a negative and for different reasons. This has major implications for how employers introduce and offer flexible working arrangements in their organisation, especially as the government looks to increase the rights of workers to request flexible working.

“A simple introduction and expansion of the right to request flexible working will not be enough. We need to challenge our prevalent organisational cultures which privileges work above everything else, with long hours considered to be synonymous with productivity and commitment. Such change is crucial especially if flexible working is to help reduce the gender wage gap.”

The paper, entitled Gender, flexibility stigma, and the perceived negative consequences of flexible working in the UK, has been published in the journal Social Indicators Research – Special Issue: Flexible Working, Work-life Balance, and Gender Equality.

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