Parents forced to quit their jobs because they are refused flexible working

Katy Morton
Friday, October 19, 2012

Despite many businesses claiming to be family-friendly, flexible working is still extremely difficult to obtain across the public and private sector, according to new research.

The report by charity Family Lives, which has been published to coincide with National Parents Week (22-28 October), outlines how many parents struggle with the challenge of reconciling work and family life, with some even having to give up work altogether.

The report, Family Friendly or Failing Families, also comes ahead of the launch of the Government’s new flexible working proposals under the Modern Workplaces agenda.

While many businesses claim to be family-friendly and supportive of flexible working, there is a clear disparity between aims and implementation, says Family Lives, which analysed current flexible working policies and proposals and spoke to a number of working parents.

The charity claims that the overriding barrier towards implementing a full flexible working policy is a traditional workplace culture that remains wedded to a conventional 9-5 working pattern or longer. This can leave parents feeling unable to request a change in their working patterns

Some organisations also treat flexible working requests on a case-by-case basis rather than translate their flexible working policies into their forward planning and overall strategy.

Another issue highlighted by parents was that flexible working requests are not being communicated to the team in which the employee requesting works, and managers are reluctant to allow flexible working trials.

All of the parents reported that being refused flexible working had a significant negative effect on their family lives. Some even had to quit their job as a result.

One mother, who works as a team leader, said, ‘I’m devastated that I’ve got to work five days. I only see my son for short afternoons in the week, after nursery when he’s tired so it’s not to be the best quality time with him. My partner gets a day off and can spend it with our son. It means financially we are struggling. We have to send our son to nursery three days instead of two, and we have two cars because we can’t share even though we only work a mile apart.’

In order to improve families’ work-life balance, the report makes a number of recommendations to employers and policy makers, including:

  • Extending the ‘right to request’ flexible working to all employees.
  • Urging the Government to make the process of requesting flexible working more adaptable to family needs, such as allowing employees to make a second flexible working request within a year and the use of flexible working trial periods.
  • Increasing flexibility in taking maternity, paternity and parental leaves.
  • Making workplaces more pro-active rather than reactive in dealing with flexible working requests.
  • Encouraging workplaces to look at new information technologies which promote mobile and remote working.

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