Employers’ long-hours culture risks losing talent, says charity

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Pressure from managers to work beyond contracted hours and unrealistic workloads are causing resentment among parents trying to combine work and family responsibilities, according to research from the charity Working Families.

Its 2018 Modern Families index found that more than a third (34%) of parents felt resentful about their employer’s approach to work-life balance, with more fathers than mothers expressing this sentiment (37% vs 32%).

This frustration about workplace culture was strongest among younger workers, with 46% of millennial fathers feeling resentful.

Many respondents to Working Families’ research said that in order to redress the balance between work and family commitments they had either refused a promotion or taken a pay reduction to cut down on their working hours.

More than a third (36%) said they were willing to take a pay cut, while 41% of millennial parents intended to “downshift” to a less stressful job, the charity found.

And while flexible working is increasingly prevalent, 81% of parents who said they worked flexibly said they still had to bring work home at evenings or weekends.

Two in five (37%) parents said that changing company culture to make work-life balance more acceptable should be a priority for employers. They also called for better policies to support work-life balance and for employers to make better use of the family-friendly policies they already have.

Sarah Jackson, Working Families’ chief executive, said that “the best policies aimed at supporting working parents won’t translate to a better lived experience”.

“Parents, particularly millennial parents, are looking for human-sized jobs and supportive workplace cultures that genuinely allow them to combine work and family.

“Employers whose approach to organising work and underlying workplace culture hasn’t caught up with their family-friendly policies may find that, for parents, they aren’t an employer of choice.

“Tackling workplace culture – for so long the elephant in the room – is a vital to future-proofing businesses, unlocking working parents’ potential, tackling the gender pay gap and harnessing the business benefits of family friendly and flexible working.”

Denise Priest, director of employer and strategic partnerships at childcare provider Bright Horizons, which supported the research, said: “Without a supportive, family-friendly workplace culture, it is unlikely that policies and measures designed to support working carers will prove truly effective, however well-intentioned.

“By contrast, employers who create and nurture an environment where it is not only acceptable but expected for individuals to make their needs known and to take up support where it is offered, experience a true return on investment in terms of employee loyalty and performance.”

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