‘Part-time workers with schedule control do more overtime’

Part-time working mothers who control their work schedules tend to work more overtime than average, according to a new study.

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Part time women workers who are able to control their own hours often do more unpaid overtime than average, according to a new study.

The study by the University of Kent’s Dr Heejung Chung, working with Dr Mariska van der Horst from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, looked at different flexible working patterns – schedules with set flexi hours, teleworking and where workers controlled their hours – and their impact on hours worked.

It found that, although full-time working mothers who had control over their work schedule did not appear to increase their unpaid overtime, part-time working mothers who controlled their hours did more unpaid overtime, with an average of around 20 minutes more a week. Professional men and women with no children also increased their hours [by an hour a week and 40 minutes a week respectively] if they had control over their work schedule.

For flexi hours and teleworking, there was little evidence of either an increase or decrease in unpaid overtime hours.

The researchers suggest the increase in overtime for part-time working mothers may be because they feel the need to work longer to compensate for the possible stigma, perceived or otherwise, attached to them by other workers, especially when their schedules do not match normal working hours. It may also be that part-time working mothers have a greater ability to work unpaid overtime compared to full-time working mothers.

On average in the UK men work an extra 2.2 hours a week in unpaid overtime while for women it is about 1.9 hours.

Dr Chung, from Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, said: “More control over your work is supposed to make life easier for workers, particularly those with children. However, it is clear that for many, blurring the boundaries between work and home life expands work to be longer, even when it is unpaid. Employers need to be aware of this and ensure staff are not over-stretching themselves and undoing the benefits of flexible working.”

She added: “Another point to note is that unlike popular perceptions, we also do not find much evidence that those who take up flexible working arrangements for family/care purposes reduce their work loads. Employers need to be made more aware of this, to tackle our perception against those working flexibly.”

The research, entitled Flexible working and unpaid overtime in the UK: The role of gender, parental and occupational status has been published in the journal Social Indicators Research. Special Issue: Flexible Working, Work-life Balance, and Gender Equality.

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