Three in five parents work unpaid overtime to cope with workload

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Flexible working is unable to deliver the work-life balance that parents need, according to a report that finds three in five are working additional, unpaid hours to cope with their workload.

Although working from home has helped with caring responsibilities, 48% of parents said it has increased their workload, the Working Families and Bright Horizons Modern Families Index 2020 claims.

For 52% of parents, working overtime was part of their organisation’s culture. Sixty per cent said it was the only way they could get their work done.

Technology was a particular concern for parents, with 47% stating it had blurred the lines between their work and home life.

Jane van Zyl, CEO of work-life balance charity Working Families, said: “The research makes clear that jobs need to be ‘human-sized’.

“Employers who design roles that can be done in their contracted hours and encourage ‘switching off’ will feel the benefit of happier, healthier workers.

“Requiring employers to be proactive about offering flexible and part-time roles could be a catalyst for better job design. This is what we believe will ultimately deliver a better work-life balance for parents and carers.”

For 72% of the 3,090 working parents surveyed, staying in “work mode” during the evenings was making them feel stressed. Fifty-four per cent said it led to arguments with their children and 57% said it caused arguments with their partner.

This is likely to affect employers’ ability to retain staff, as 16% who regularly worked extra hours  planned to change jobs, compared with 11% who did not work additional hours.

“The tide is slowly turning in favour of family-friendly workplaces. But many employers could do more to ensure they are retaining talent and minimising attrition,” said Denise Priest, director of employer partnerships at childcare provider Bright Horizons.

“Stress and burnout are frequent dangers, especially as technology blurs the boundaries between home and work. Technology can be a wonderful enabler, but when it means employees don’t feel they can switch off in the evenings and weekends, inevitably family life suffers.”

Despite these findings, more parents felt flexible working was possible in their organisation than found in previous surveys. Fifty-one per cent felt it was a “genuine option” for women and 46% said the same for men, compared to 44% who said it was an option for both men and women in 2015.

However, only 55% said they worked flexibly, compared to 58% in 2015.

Senior managers and directors were more likely to be able to work flexibly (71%) than parents in junior-level roles (48%). More than three in five parents earning over £50,000 worked flexibly, compared with just two in five earning £15-20,000.

To better support working parents, the report recommends that:

  • The government makes it mandatory for employers to be transparent about flexible working, parental leave and pay policies and advertise vacancies on a flexible basis
  • An additional, individual non-transferable entitlement to 12 weeks of leave and pay is introduced for fathers and partners to spend time with their new child
  • The government ensures that it pays to work once childcare costs are covered
  • Employers publish their family-friendly working policies
  • Employers manage technology so that it supports rather than inhibits work-life balance.

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