New data suggests parents are frustrated at lack of flexible working

No entryFollowing last week’s revelation that the planned extension of Flexible Working Rights to all UK employees would be delayed beyond the proposed implementation date in April, new statistics released by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and a new report from the Working Families charity have revealed some of the disparities that exist in flexible working arrangements across the country. The Working Families survey of a little over 1,000 adults with dependent children, found that almost a third claim there are no flexible arrangements on offer where they work, leading many to feel resentful against their employers, with young fathers twice as likely to strongly resent the lack of flexible working affects their lives.

The survey in the ‘Time, Health and Family’ report also claims that this is the case even though young fathers are around twice as likely as mothers to be the first port of call when things go wrong with childcare or at school. Otherwise, mothers are overwhelmingly more likely to be called by nurseries and schools.

Meanwhile the BIS has released new government statistics which appear to suggest that in spite of new rules which allow mothers and fathers have equal rights when it comes to requesting flexible working, dads are around twice as likely to have requests rejected by employers. Just under a fifth (18 percent) of fathers applying for flexible working are turned down. However men are also far les likely to apply in the first place, with just 17 percent of fathers requesting flexible working compared to 28 percent of mums.

This is in spite of the resentment men apparently feel and the fact that the Working families report suggests that more than 40 percent of families feel that work disrupts their family lives and that young fathers (aged 26 to 35) feel they are most affected. Almost a third of the parents surveyed claimed  there was no flexible working on offer where they worked, especially for workers in the education, retail and healthcare sectors where fixed hours and shift patterns are more likely to exist.

Commenting on her report, Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said: ” It is clear that expectations for work life balance are changing, particularly among younger working fathers. This is a quiet revolution in attitudes which may have long-lasting impact in the workplace. The male employee, focused full-time on his work, is becoming a museum-piece. Tomorrow’s workers, male and female, will expect time and space for their family lives and responsibilities alongside their work. So I am struck by how many parents told us that flexible working is not available in their workplace. Over 90% of UK organisations say they offer at least one form of flexible working and so we must conclude that employers need to improve their communications about the possible options. If resentment builds up about lack of flexibility, performance will suffer.”

The reports come in the wake of the news that plans to introduce the right to request flexible working for all employees on 6 April of this year have been held up by delays to the Children and Families Bill. The House of Commons has agreed a new target date of 21 March 2014 for Royal Assent of the Children and Families Bill, which will delay the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees. Currently only employees with children under the age of 17 (18 if the child is disabled) or who are carers have the right to request a flexible pattern of work. A new implementation date will be set for later in the year.