The latest study from Working Families has revealed that many parents in Britain are ‘just about managing’ – struggling with both time and money

Father on laptop holds newborn son as mother makes meal picture id672419722

The Modern Families Index 2018, published by charity Working Families and Bright Horizons Family Solutions, has revealed that 40% of parents who are contracted to work 35-36 hours per week are putting in extra hours. In fact, a third are putting in an extra 7 hours – which is the equivalent of an extra working day each week. This also applied to parents who are part-time workers as 30% are putting in enough work to constitute them as full-time workers.

Managing workload and organisational culture are the main reasons parents feel obligated to work the extra hours. These long hours do nothing to help parents maintain a healthy work-life balance.

The study found that for nearly half (47%) of parents and carers, work affects their ability to spend time with their family. Parents are missing out on crucial moments in their children’s formative years as 2 in 5 parents admitted they often miss out on saying goodnight to their children and 42% are unable to help their children with their homework.

There is no clear-cut solution for working parents, especially for those working to increase their family’s income. Over half (52%) of respondents said it is becoming increasingly difficult financially to raise a family (a 5% increase from 2017). In order to bolster their family’s income, 15% of parents have had to increase their working time.

Working parents who have chosen family as their highest priority are taking significant action to have a better work-life balance. 1 in 5 parents have deliberately chosen to stall their careers and 1 in 10 have refused a new job or promotion because of the lack of good work life balance opportunities.

It seems that parents in employment really can’t have it all, even those who have flexible work arrangements still struggle with the ‘control trilemma’ – lacking control over the where they work, their working time and the hours they work. The study suggests a more comprehensive, flexible, generous and progressive childcare infrastructure is required for those experiencing this ‘trilemma’. Employers and local authority need to put provisions in place, but childcare also needs to a central plank of government industrial and economic strategies across the UK.

Flexibility is crucial to today’s modern workforce, as the ‘sandwich generation’ not only has to worry about childcare but also eldercare. Seven in ten (69%) of respondents felt that it was more acceptable to ask for time off for childcare reasons as opposed to eldercare. Allowing working parents to have a choice would be the key part of any new initiative to support them.

To allow parental choice, it is important to tackle gendered assumptions about who works and cares. While 90% of fathers in the survey work full time, only 51% of mothers did and 40% of mothers chose to work part time while only 4% of men work part time. The introduction of shared parental leave has helped to change attitudes and norms but the study believes the government needs to go further and create a properly paid and standalone period of extended paternity leave for fathers, so mothers don’t have to stall their own careers and on a wider scale this would help address the gender pay gap.

David Clift, HR Director comments, “Going back to the workplace can be a daunting experience, particularly for new parents. One way employers can help combat this stress is offering returnship programmes – these are high-level internships that support professionals coming back into the workplace after a period of leave. We recently surveyed 2,600 jobseekers and found that 72% of employees would consider a returnship programme after taking a break from employment. These programmes are a fantastic way of welcoming employees back into the workforce and ensuring that skills and talent is not lost. It’s truly a win win for employers and employees. Parents can re-adapt to the work place, while employers can capitalise on a large pool of talent. This is especially important in this current climate, with a major skill-shortage facing many industries.”