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Yesterday I had the privilege of attending The House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group for Parents and Families discussion for Family Friendly Britain organised by The Family & Childcare Trust to explore the challenges and opportunities in creating a more family friendly Britain working together with businesses, parents, and national government.

We heard from the Federation of Small Businesses, Amanda Steadman from Addleshaw Goddard LLP, Emma Stewart MBE from the Timewise Foundation, and a representative from the Government, before concluding with a 30 minute audience Q&A session.

Flexible working for parents is becoming more widely available across lots of industries in the UK after maternity leave and paternity leave ends.

But many working mums are unclear on what ‘flexible working’ actually means, how it relates to employment law and whether it is a possibility for us and how to go about requesting it.

A third of employees feel there is stigma or resentment from work colleagues around flexible working, according to new research by Netmums and the Family and Childcare Trust.

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 joint research also revealed that while 80 per cent think it is very important that a potential employer offers flexible working practices when they look for a new job, for 15 per cent of respondents flexible working is not available to anybody at their workplace, and nearly 20 per cent don’t know if flexible working is available.

Worryingly, nearly 29 per cent respondents had also been forced to leave work altogether due to not being able to balance work and family life.

The family charity is concerned that despite 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. ”

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.
  • Some 35 per cent of respondents said that flexible working was not offer in their current workplace or it was restricted to certain staff.
  • Some 32 per cent of respondents said there was a stigma or resentment attached to flexible working in their current workplace.
  • The availability of flexible working impacts on parents career pathways. Some 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 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.

The data is drawn from a survey of 1,768 parents undertaken by Netmums in May 2014. The survey respondents were parents living across the UK. Some 39 per cent had university qualifications, while 32 per cent had Level 3 (A-Level equivalent) qualifications or below.

So what exactly is flexible working ?

Here are the different ways of working flexibly.

Job sharing

Two people do one job and split the hours.

Working from home

It might be possible to do some or all of the work from home or anywhere else other than the normal place of work.

Part time

Working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).

Compressed hours

Working full-time hours but over fewer days.

Flexitime

The employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but works certain ‘core hours’, eg 10am to 4pm every day.

Annualised hours

The employee has to work a certain number of hours over the year but they have some flexibility about when they work. There are sometimes ‘core hours’ which the employee regularly works each week, and they work the rest of their hours flexibly or when there’s extra demand at work.

Staggered hours

The employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.

Phased retirement

Default retirement age has been phased out and older workers can choose when they want to retire. This means they can reduce their hours and work part time.

For more information go to https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working/overview

ABOUT FAMILY FRIENDLY UK

Family Friendly UK is a scheme by the Family and Childcare Trust that helps organisations to be more family friendly. They work with organisations to improve how they support families as employees and as customers.

ABOUT THE FAMILY AND CHILDCARE TRUST

The Family and Childcare Trust works to make the UK a better place for families. Their vision is of a society where government, business and communities do all they can to support every family to thrive. Through our research, campaigning and practical support we are creating a more family friendly UK.

For further information, go to www.familyandchildcaretrust.org.

ABOUT NETMUMS

NETMUMS.COM is Britain’s biggest parenting site, with over 1.7 million members and 7 million unique users each month. Founded in 2000, it offers unrivalled support though a unique network of 151 established and vibrant local websites and 300 national groups for mums to meet offline, alongside 2,300 parent bloggers covering the most topical family-focused content on the web. Netmums is also the only parenting site to provide professional round the clock care to its users. Dubbed ‘the emergency service for mums’, each year over three and a half million parents are helped by Netmums specially trained teams of parenting supporters, including staff from Relate, Women’s Aid and the Family Rights Group. The site also provides free one-to-one support for more than 30,000 of the UK’s most vulnerable mums each year. The three Netmums founders were recently awarded OBEs in recognition of their Services to Families.

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