Control over working hours leads to different outcomes for mothers and fathers

The growth of flexible working practices coupled with the extension of parental leave tights to fathers is are partly intended to reduce the differences between levels of pay and career progression for men and women. Yet a study published in the European Sociological Review suggests that men and women experience different outcomes when given control of their working hours and may even lead to the reinforcement of traditional gender roles. The study  by Yvonne Lott and Heejung Chung of the Hans-Böckler Foundation, Düsseldorf and the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent respectively found that while the adoption of flexible working meant all people worked longer hours on average, only men enjoyed higher incomes as a direct result.

One of the explanations put forward for this apparent discrepancy by the researchers is that men who have control over their time and place of work are seen as more dedicated whereas equivalent women are more likely to be seen as using flexible working to balance the demands of work and their parental responsibilities.

Writing earlier this year, Chung posits the following explanation: “Full-time working women do as many overtime hours as men when working flexibly, even when they are mothers. And yet we found they did not reap the same rewards in terms of pay as men. This may be because when flexibility is used for personal reasons, employers may not reward its use. Plus, employers tend to believe that women use flexibility mainly for family-friendly purposes, which results in women not being rewarded in the same way as men when using flexibility – regardless of the increase in their devotion to work they exhibit. So an increase in flexibility at work may lead to the enforcement of traditional gender roles and increase the gender gap.”

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