Fathers seek more flexible working, but remain concerned about impact on career

As more and more women are staying in the workplace after having children – and often full time – parents are demanding greater access to flexible working, but dads are still being held back by old-fashioned policies and fears that their employer will react negatively to requests to work flexibly, according to two new Workingmums.co.uk surveys.

While Workingmums.co.uk‘s annual survey, sponsored by McDonald’s, shows 59 percent of mums say their partner doesn’t work flexibly and only 4 percent say their partner works part time, a survey of dads shows overwhelming demand for flexible working among men with 73 percent saying they are considering seeking it, but 72 percent fearing their employer’s reaction if they do.

The survey claims to highlight the way society is changing: 22.5 percent of the over 2,400 mums who took part are the main earners in their families [compared to 17 percent in 2016] and an additional 18 percent are the main earners because they are single parents. Yet mums, who are more able to work reduced hours, still hold the major responsibilities for childcare and housework with just 23 percent saying childcare is shared equally and around 4 percent saying their partner does more than them.

Many mums also said that working flexibly had had a negative impact on their career progression:

  • 42 percent say their flexible working is not viewed positively by colleagues
  • 49 percent say flexible working has held them back in their career
  • 54 percent of part timers say they miss out on career progression opportunities.

Despite this, there is a big demand for greater flexibility, particularly flexible hours and 56 percent worry their flexible working will be taken away. A quarter [25 percent] of mums work full time with no flexibility and 40 percent of those who work flexibly feel they don’t have enough flexibility. Only 7 percent do job shares, although these are held up as a good way for people to progress their careers while working reduced hours.

The survey also claims that:

  • 62 percent have considered setting up a business with the flexibility to have more control the key reason
  • 67 percent of women said they were interested in retraining
  • 65 percent of working mums feel they have to work harder due to unconscious bias
  • 11 percent have elder care as well as childcare responsibilities and 68 percent of these say their employer is not supportive.
  • Grandparents are still the favoured way of reducing childcare costs (50 percent)
  • 35 percent would consider Shared Parental Leave with finance being the main barrier [40 percent]. However, 24 percent of mums say they just don’t want to share their leave.

Commenting on the results, Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, said: “There has been a lot of focus in the last year on the gender pay gap. A huge part of this is down to the lack of women in senior positions. Promotion often occurs around the time that women start families. Our survey shows that more employers need to focus on ways to ensure women don’t drop off the progression track as a result of working flexibly. It also suggests much more needs to be done to make it easier for dads to share parenting duties more equally by enabling them to work flexibly.”