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Working Families Index Reveals Challenges of Being a Working Parent

Working Families Index Reveals Challenges of Being a Working Parent
21 July 2022

The Working Families Index, the most comprehensive study of the experience of work and family life in the UK, offers insights into the relationship between wellbeing and support at work and life as a working parent.

Working Families, in partnership with Talking Talent, surveyed nearly 3,000 parents and carers in the UK, revealing how people with caring responsibilities are managing the balance between work and family life.


“Flexible working should not just be the preserve of those who work at a desk—and working from home is just one of many types of flexible working. We encourage employers in every sector to take a look at all of the ways in which they can make flexible working possible."

–Jane van Zyl

Chief Executive, Working Families



Families Are Struggling Financially


The research shows that families are finding it harder to manage financially, with both the repercussions of the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis impacting people’s financial security.

Three in five parents and carers report that it has become more difficult to raise a family.  Over 4/5ths of single-parent families and over half of two-child couples already fall below minimum income standards.

Of the families surveyed, younger families, single parents, larger families, self-employed, those living in London and low earners have been hit the hardest.


Childcare Issues Impact Capacity to Work


Access to affordable childcare is fundamental for most parents’ ability to work. The availability of childcare impacts not just capacity to work but also career progression, particularly for mothers.

Most parents used a mix of formal and informal childcare provisions, with people in London least likely to be using grandparents to support them.

Younger and larger families were most likely to find cost an obstacle to accessing childcare and parents from lower and middle-income households were twice as likely than those in higher-income households (£60K+) to say that affordability was a barrier.


People Working On-Site Aren’t Benefitting from Flexible Working


Whilst many employers now offer more flexible working options in light of COVID-19,  inequalities remain when it comes to both who can access flexible working and opportunities for career progression.

Working parents and carers are represented in all walks of life, and every industry. Some work in “knowledge professions” where flexible work is easier to facilitate, but many others, as in the majority of FM roles, are “place-based”.

The Working Families Index argues that true flexibility has never been just about being able to work from home. Flexible working also means adjustments such as job shares, reduced hours, term-time hours and control over when work is undertaken.

Across the survey, parents and carers who had flexible working arrangements tended to report higher rates of career progression than those without.

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “At the moment we are seeing huge growth in home and hybrid working. While we can celebrate this, it’s leaving a lot of working parents and carers behind in sectors where home and hybrid options are less possible. Millions of these are our frontline workers, people who kept vital services going throughout the pandemic.

“Flexible working should not just be the preserve of those who work at a desk—and working from home is just one of many types of flexible working. We encourage employers in every sector to take a look at all of the ways in which they can make flexible working possible. If employers get this right, they will reap the benefits of increased loyalty and retention.”  


Many Parents are Also Carers


Almost a quarter of survey respondents had extra caring responsibilities for adults aged 18 and over as well. This is especially true for parents from a black or ethnic minority background, who in the survey were more likely to be under 35, and single parents.

Just under a third of younger parents in the survey (under 35), had adult caring responsibilities which factored into their desire to work flexibly.


Workplace Culture and Overworking is Still a Problem


Maintaining boundaries between work and home life had become a challenge for almost half the parents and carers surveyed. Working additional hours was commonplace, with three-quarters of parents regularly working extra hours, predominantly because of finances, workload, and expectations.

A fifth of parents reported that they felt working additional hours was the only way they could manage their workload. Men were more likely than women to say that additional hours were part of workplace culture.

However, 2022’s index also found that supportive attitudes from employers and individual managers towards family life and flexible working had a big impact on retention and loyalty. Parents who did not work flexibly felt less supported at work and were twice as likely to feel that they could not talk to their employers about either work-related or family issues than those with flexible working arrangements.

Picture: a photograph of a person working at a laptop whilst sitting on a sofa. One child is lying next to them on the sofa, whilst another child is at the front of the image playing Jenga on the floor. Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 21 July 2022


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