‘Part-time penalty is leaving mothers behind’

A new study shows part timers face a career penalty and that parents find themselves overwhelmed by the demands of modern working life.



Working parents in the UK are penalised for working part time and suffer from poorly-designed jobs that force them to work extra hours, according to a new study from Working Families and Bright Horizons.

The 2019 Modern Families Index, which is based on a survey of nearly 3,000 working parents, mainly mums, reveals that parents working part time – most of whom are women – have just a 21% chance of being promoted within the next three years, compared to 45% for their full-time counterparts.

Longer wait for promotion

The Index shows that the average mother waits two years longer for a promotion than the average father. This is the consequence of more mothers than fathers being in part-time work and threatens to frustrate recent efforts by government and many corporations to close the gender pay gap.

The Index also found that many parents grapple with unmanageable workloads owing, in part, to a workplace culture of presenteeism. 78% of parents are working beyond their contracted hours. Of those who put in extra work, 60% report that doing so is necessary to deal with their workload and over half (52%) said that working extra hours is part of their organisation’s culture.

Demand for flexible working

There is also an unmet demand for flexible working among parents: 86% of parents want to work flexibly but only 49% of those surveyed do. For more than a third (37%) of parents, flexible working isn’t available in their workplaces, despite all employees having the statutory right to request flexible working arrangements.

The survey also shows working parents feel overwhelmed by the increasing demands of the modern workplace. Nearly half of parents (47%) said that work restricts their ability to spend time reading or playing with their children. 48% said it affects their relationship with their partner and more than a quarter (28%) said it led to arguments with their children.

This is exacerbated by the constant intrusion from technology on family time: 47% of respondents felt that the boundaries between work and home had become too blurred by technology, echoing a recent survey by workingmums.co.uk about boundaries between work and home life.

Forty seven percent of parents surveyed in the Index said that work had noticeable negative impacts on the amount of sleep they could get; 47% said the long hours restricted the amount of exercise they were able to take; 43% said work had a detrimental effect on their diet.

The role of employers

Parents overwhelmingly said that government and employers shared responsibility for improving things. Ninety percent of parents said that employers have a role to play and 92% said that the government has a responsibility to address these issues.

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “Both the government and employers have the opportunity to break down the barriers to progression for part-time workers, and to ensure that parents aren’t under pressure to work extra hours. We welcome the government’s consultation of its proposal to create a duty for employers to consider whether a job can be flexibly and to make that clear when advertising new roles. This will challenge the persistent notion that full-time working is the optimum pattern, changing how part-timers are viewed in the workplace. At the same time, employers need to start properly considering job design-  evaluating what tasks the role requires and how these tasks can be completed in the allocated hours –  before determining what kind of flexible working is possible.”

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