The perceived part-time career penalty

Younger people and managers are more likely to think part-time working limits career progression, according to a new survey from Timewise.

Part time working or full time working spelled out in dice


Nearly half of workers believe part-time working can limit career progression, particularly younger people and managers, despite managers also being the most likely occupational group to express an interest in working part time in the future, according to new research.

The Timewise report, A Question of Time, is based on an Opinium survey of 4,001 full-time and part-time workers and smaller focus groups. It shows 41% of people work part-time to manage either care or home-related responsibilities, and 22% work part-time to better manage their mental and/or physical health. 16% work part time because they have cut their hours as they get closer to retirement. Other reasons include pursuing hobbies and interests beyond work while 10% haven’t been able to secure full-time work.

Over a third of workers thought part-time working was primarily for parents and carers, rising to one in four among those in the managerial occupational group. However, half don’t think working part time means you are less ambitious, with 23% saying it does.

The survey found differences in the perception of the status of part-time work by age, ethnicity, education and occupation:

  • While 51% of younger workers (18-35) agree that ‘part-time working limits career progression’, only 37% of workers over 50 do.
  • Asian workers are more likely to say that part-time work limits career progression than workers from white backgrounds (58% versus 45%).
  • People in managerial and professional occupations hold a more negative view of part-time working than those in routine occupations (53% versus 36%).

Younger workers and those with temporary contracts were least comfortable discussing reducing their hours. However, they were more likely to consider taking advantage of the new day one right to request flexible working in a future role, and significantly more respondents from black minority ethnic groups than white ethnic groups would do the same.

Timewise says there is an urgent need for joined up action by employers, policymakers and government to tackle inequalities in the part-time labour market and create more inclusive workplaces where employees can thrive.

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