Two sides of the same coin? What British families want and what they get

Flexible working is one of the bestselling employment features companies can offer their employees as an increasing amount of surveys demonstrates. Flexible employers score higher on the labour markets and can more easily attract the right talent. However, the reality still holds a lot of room for improvement, the new Working Families report “Time, Health and the Family 2014” shows. The results that confirm experts’ views are based on an online-survey of 507 men and 530 women.

The latest Working Families report provides a snapshot view of how parents combine work and private life and examines whether they are achieving the kind of balance they aim at. The results show a gap between demand and supply. Workplace pressure is a concrete challenge for one quarter of respondents, reporting to be stressed. Moreover, nearly half of all parents feel that their working life is becoming increasingly demanding and only 15 percent report lower levels of stress compared with the past. Nevertheless, almost one third of parents report that there is no flexible working offer at their workplace and another third of respondents is unaware of such offers.

Concerning the parenting role models might shift in nearer future. Nowadays, traditional family roles remain prevalent, but things are likely to change with the younger generation. On the one hand, the model of a full-time male bread-winner and a part-time mother (50% of all households) remains common. In this context, micro-inequities occur quite often; for example when something goes wrong at school or in childcare, mothers are the first to be called. On the other hand, younger fathers are more aware about their Work/Life balance issues and hence more often flag out insufficient flexibility tools – this may well be an expression of a more active fatherhood identity.

A general evaluation of the situation is, however, impossible as industry and socio-economic differences are evident. While the financial industry and IT-companies are known for offering innovative work formats, the report says that the education, retail and healthcare sectors are most likely not to offer such . Respondents with lower qualification levels, working in manual occupations or having a lower household income were less attracted by flexible working offers than higher educated participants – a result that echoes the British Government’s Work-Life-Balance Survey of 2012. This reinforces the recommendation that each company needs to explore their individual business case taking into account their stakeholders’ preferences.

But still, work/life balanced is a biased concepts that strongly favours current parents compared to all other employees. This will continue as a bill that should introduce the right to request flexible working to all employees was been delayed for an indefinite period. Currently only employees with children under the age of 17 or carers have the right to request a flexible pattern of work in the UK.