Attitudes towards flexible working still at odds with needs of modern life, claims report

Flexible working fatherThere is still a stigma attached to flexible working and employers are still reluctant to offer it to staff, according to a survey of UK employees carried out by parenting website Netmums and charity the Family and Childcare Trust. According to a third of just under 1,800 respondents, there remains a degree of resentment from work colleagues towards those who  enjoy some form of flexible working. And, while, 80 percent of people think it is very important that employers offer flexible working to staff , a mere 15 percent feel it is offered in practice and another 20 percent have no idea whether it is available to them or not. The result is a mismatch between the desires and expectations of individuals and the reality of working life with the upshot that nearly a third (29 percent) of respondents claim to have left a job because they were unable to balance it with other aspects of their lives.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Part-time work was the most common flexible work arrangement available to parents with 79 per cent saying that this was on offer in their current workplace. Only 21 per cent of respondents said that term-time working was an option that was available to them, although this is an arrangement that is popular with many parents.
  • 35 per cent of respondents said that flexible working was not offer in their current workplace or it was restricted to certain staff.
  • 32 per cent of respondents said there was a stigma or resentment attached to flexible working in their current workplace.
  • 53 per cent of respondents has not pursed promotion due to the conflicting demands of work and family life, 22 per cent had taken a pay cut or demotion, 29 per cent had left a job not to work and 25 per cent had changed their job for a more flexible position elsewhere.

The Family and Childcare Trust is now calling on Government to run an information and awareness campaign to make sure parents know about their rights and entitlements at work, including the right to request flexible working which will be extended at the end of this month to include everybody who has been in a job for more than six months.

The research has been published to launch Family Friendly UK, a scheme by the Family and Childcare Trust that supports organisations to become more family friendly. The family charity is concerned that despitethe  new legislation coming in at the end of June, which will extend the existing legal right to ask for flexible working to all employees, flexible working is still viewed as a privilege for a minority rather than a necessity to help all families balance work and caring responsibilities.

Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust said: “It is baffling and counterproductive that in the modern workplace – and decades after it was first introduced – there is still stigma attached to flexible working. More shockingly still is the fact that flexible working seems to only be an option for a small minority of people, despite the obvious benefits to both businesses and parents. There are many good employers in the UK who offer flexible working to their staff. But far too many people are forced to leave jobs because they can’t get the right balance between work and family life. This is a needless waste of talent – and tax income for the state. With the right training and planning, flexibility can be applied to most roles. Family Friendly UK is designed to help employers on the journey towards achieving a flexible workforce.”

Julia McGinley, Director of Parent Support at the UK’s main parenting site Netmums said: “There is a huge mismatch between what workers want and what employers are offering. This study clearly shows savvy firms should offer flexible working as a perk to tempt the top candidates and get ahead of their rivals. With four in five parents looking for companies with flexible hours, it will allow bosses to cherry-pick those parents with the experience, skills and ambition to drive their business forward.  With our 24 hours ‘always on’ culture, having a flexible workforce also ensures you can cover all the hours you need to, so firms have nothing to fear and everything to gain. ”

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