Why the case for flexible working is not so hopeless

A report out today in the Economic Journal paints a bleak picture for women managers who want to work flexibly. But things are changing, argues WorkingMums’ web editor Mandy Garner

It makes depressing reading. A third of women managers take low paid, low status part-time jobs to get the flexibility they need, according to a report published in the Economic Journal. But does it have to be that way? In WorkingMums’ experience there are many employers who realise the business case for promoting flexible working. With women accounting now for the majority of university graduates and likely to continue to do so for the next years, it makes total economic sense for employers not to waste their talents and allow them to disappear from the jobs they are good at just for the want of a little flexibility, particularly in the early years. The rewards are immense: happy, committed employees and the retention of experienced staff. There may also be additional benefits – the ability to offer round-the-clock service to clients, for instance, and lower sickness rates.

Put this way, it seems crazy for employers not to embrace flexible working. But there is still a lot of resistance among some managers – witness, the furore around the Government’s plans to extend the right to request flexible working to all parents of children under 18. But there are always those who lag behind in every social revolution and that is what this is. This generation of mothers have been brought up to think of themselves as the complete equals of men. They have spent their lives building their careers, often running up years of unpaid overtime in the process. But they are also unwilling, in Britain’s long hours culture, to sacrifice seeing their children in order to keep on the upward career path.

Neither, though, are they going to lie down and take being demoted to lower paid jobs to achieve a manageable work life balance. Particularly when having to juggle all the demands of home and work life – and it is still the women who take on the vast majority of home demands [how many men at work spend their lunch hour organising holiday cover?] – means that they are constantly improving much sought after skills – organisation, prioritisation, time management, to name just a few. This survey paints a bleak picture. The truth is not so hopeless in most professions and women need to push at employers’ doors more to make the case for flexible working being a no brainer. They might find the door is ajar anyway. Things are changing and if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Report on the Economic Journal researchWhat do you think of the survey’s findings? Email mandy@workingmums.co.uk




Comments [1]

  • Anonymous says:

    My manager leaves work when she likes to. Goes grocery shopping…goes home…and then comes back to work. She also wears short
    skirts. She has brought her children in too, eg. Teenager one day. But we nurses must wear our uniforms at all times. We can not wear our normal clothes. Is this a form of discrimination and what can I do about this? Her manners are inappropriate too..one day she blamed me for something and would not let me explain myself. She upset me so much. Her communication skills are unfair. I wanted to apply for flexible working….and yet she has not had to apply because she can do what she likes? Why are there different rules for a person like this?


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