More than half of the UK's part-time workers are in jobs that they feel fail to capitalise on their qualifications, skills and previous management experience, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission.
Working part-time in low-paid jobs can 'scar' their income, earnings potential and promotion prospects for life while the economy loses essential skills, the EOC's Part Time Is No Crime - So Why The Penalty? report says.
It argues that the way to tackle the stigma and disadvantage faced by those who work part-time is by opening up flexible working practices at all levels of the economy and by opening the right to request flexible working to carers and parents of older children.
The report shows that part-time workers are 40% less likely to receive in-work training than full-time counterparts. It also reports that women-part time workers earn an average 40% less per hour than male full-time workers.
The report also reveals that the odds of a woman being in part-time work increase by almost eight times if she has a second child aged 0-4. It also argues that the lack of availability of affordable, good quality childcare is a trigger for entry into part-time work.
Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "Britain is facing a crisis if it does not address the need for flexible hours at work. Women are hardest hit by the part-time 'penalty' which channels them into low-paid jobs with poor prospects often because they take on more of the caring role at home.
"What we need is to enable parents of older children and carers to ask their employer to work flexibly, and encourage employers to offer better paid jobs on a more flexible basis. Only that way can we keep essential skills in the economy whilst allowing people to do the vital role of caring for others," she added.