Traditional gender roles persist despite progress in flexible working

Less than a quarter of dads work flexibly and only four percent work part time despite flexible work legislation applying equally to mums and dads, according to a major survey by and sponsored by, the world’s largest online care destination.

Woman working at home


The annual survey of more than 2,500 women shows that only 27% of working mums said they split childcare and housework equally with their partners, even though 18% earned more than their partners [a further 19% are the main breadwinners in their families as a result of being single parents].

Most women who responded to the survey returned part time after maternity leave or started a new job and some 56% said they earned less pro rata than before they had children. Research shows men’s wages typically go up after they have children.*

Despite this traditional divide in caring roles, 41% of women said they would consider sharing their maternity leave with their partners when shared parenting legislation comes into effect in 2014.

The annual survey shows women place flexible working at the top of their agenda for career progression. Some 70 percent said more flexible working would help their career progression.

In rating what defined a family-friendly firm, the provision of flexi hours was more popular than part-time jobs. Moreover, some 66% of women said some homeworking would encourage them to work full time.

For those not in work, lack of appropriate flexible working is still the number one barrier to their return with the cost of childcare coming second.

Some 58 percent of mothers who aren’t working cited childcare costs as a factor in preventing their return to work and 53% said that grandparents helped out with childcare, a 10% increase since 2011.

The amount parents paid for childcare ranged significantly with 36 percent paying nothing and 18 percent spending more than £500 a month.

Other survey findings included:

  • Worry about colleagues’ perception was the most common emotion of women returning to work, followed by excitement about taking up their job again.
  • Most women said they returned to work because they needed the money, with 42 percent having returned to work early due to the recession.
  • 53 percent of respondents felt employers discriminated more against working mums due to the recession with 18 percent saying they had been made redundant due to being a mum, being pregnant or being on maternity leave.
  • Despite the importance women placed on flexible working, 44 percent of women on maternity leave had not discussed flexible working with their employer.
  • Only 53 percent of those who worked part time worked their hours with 12 percent doing six to eight hours extra a week. 73 percent of working mums log on after work hours to check emails, 50 percent do so regularly.

Gillian Nissim, founder of, said: “It is interesting to note how few partners of working mums work flexibly.

This may be for all sorts of reasons, but it reinforces traditional divides between men and women both at home and in the workplace and leads to the stresses associated with women effectively doing a double shift.

The more progressive employers are proactive in supporting dads who want to work flexibly and play a greater role in their family life. They recognise that greater equality in the home is tied to greater equality in the workplace.

As flexible working becomes more normalised and accepted as a benefit for both workers and businesses it is to be hoped that it will become harder for employers to discriminate against women and easier for women to progress in their careers.”

Sigrid Daniel, UK Country Director for, said: “The need for flexible, affordable childcare continues to be the driving force for mothers joining or returning to the workforce. This data makes it clear that there is room for improvement in the workplace, and companies who are offering alternatives to support them both in motherhood and their careers are going to reap the rewards of the huge pool of untapped female talent available.”

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