Women suffering as flexibility breeds workplace resentment

The increase in female-friendly employment legislation could be backfiring with working women in the UK reporting that their levels of job satisfaction are actually dropping.

A study of 25,000 British female employees, by Professor Michael Rose at the University of Bath, shows that the average level of overall job satisfaction has been falling for 15 years.

The study, which covered 371 occupations, ranging from secretaries to chief executives of multinational organisations, asked women to rate how they felt about pay, job security, training, hours of work and fringe benefits.

It found job satisfaction among part-time women in the UK had fallen by 8% since the early nineties and among full-time women by 3%. Satisfaction among men remained constant in the same period.

“These figures may not seem huge, but it’s just like politics,” Rose said, “A lead of 4% is enough to get you elected. The figures have to be read in that sort of way.”

The fall comes despite ever-greater efforts by the government to improve work-life balance for women, such as extended rights to request flexible working and increases in maternity benefits.

A spokesman from the Department of Trade and Industry said the government was committed to making work an attractive option for women, boosting them and the economy as a whole.

“We want women to be fairly rewarded, to achieve job satisfaction and a work-life balance of their choosing,” he said.

But Jane Shaw, director of HR at recruitment firm Resource Innovations, believes that increasing employee rights is actually breeding discontent in the workplace and this is having a negative impact on those it is meant to protect.

And Caroline Slocock, chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: “It’s hardly surprising that women are increasingly less satisfied by their work when they are receiving 18% less pay per hour if they work full-time and 40% less when they work part-time.”

BOXHEAD: Feedback from hr

BOXTEXT: Jane Shaw, director of HR, recruitment firm Resource Innovations
“What is surfacing now is resentment towards those who take advantage of their increasing freedoms from those without children who never have an ‘accepted pretext’ to leave early and sometimes end up working harder to compensate for colleagues who do.”

Charlie Keeling, HR director, management consultancy
Bearing Point
“In our line of work we are providing a service and our clients don’t want ‘part-timers’, which is a massive issue for the industry. The new maternity legislation will increase the problem for us and has the potential to be a drain on resources, as our clients are billed by the hour.”

Francis Bird, HR director, Royal Mail
“Providing support in relation to maternity is a key element in building and sustaining a diverse workforce. Overall, the Royal Mail has a comprehensive range of people policies which we regularly review to ensure staff are happy.”

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