Working parents still suffering from attitudes of UK employers

Sep 26 2002 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The pressures that come from trying to combine raising children with working mean that most women still compromise in their efforts to find a fulfilling and rewarding working life.

A survey out today, "Work, Parenting and Careers 2002" shows that the majority of parents (52 percent) believe that becoming a parent has affected their career. The survey from people management experts the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also shows that this belief is particularly likely to be held by women (72 percent). 28 percent of women had actively downgraded their career since having children, but only 9 percent of men interviewed had done so.

Mike Emmott, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser, said: "As a society we seem unable to come up with positive solutions to these issues.

"Energy, talent and creativity is being lost to the UK workforce because nowhere near enough employers are offering employees the chance to work flexibly, or giving out the message that combining motherhood and a fulfilling working life is a realistic expectation.

"The more we load onto working parents and particularly, as our survey shows, working mothers, the more society as a whole suffers. Meanwhile employers are missing out on the contribution a diverse workforce can make.

"We also know that British parents face the highest childcare bills in Europe - more and more parents cannot afford to pay, leaving women with very little choice but to drop out of the labour market. Childcare provision must be given even greater government priority for the good of the economy and the wider community."

Key Findings
Nearly half of the 503 respondents had changed their job or role since becoming a parent. Women were twice as likely as men to cite family commitments or lack of family friendly policies as a primary reason for the change. Women are also three times more likely to have changed their working patterns than men, with only 20 percent continuing to work the same hours as previously.

Just under half of the working parents interviewed (46 percent) worked in organisations where some form of flexible working was available (flexi-time, job-sharing, annualised hours etc). Prevalence of flexible working policies was highest in the service industries and the public sector, whereas only 29 percent of parents working in the manufacturing or production industry had flexible working options open to them.

Where flexible working was available, take-up was high - 81 percent on average. Men and women of all age groups, across all industry sectors and organisation sizes, are keen to take advantage of flexible working arrangements. 15 percent of working parents work from home more often than previously, but this option was only available to about two-thirds of the sample interviewed.

Some 73 percent of working parents feel that their employer does not offer support sufficient financial support for working parents. Parents tend to feel that they receive more support and understanding from their direct colleagues than their employers.

Having children is viewed as a major source of stress. 80 percent of respondents said that having children had increased their stress levels - either slightly or considerably. Interestingly, this stress does not seem to be affected by working status: parents who are working full-time experience similar stress levels to those who have given up work to raise a family. This is of note in the light of the CIPD's recent absence survey which shows stress to be the most likely cause of long term sickness among non-manual workers.

Along with childcare commitments, domestic responsibilities and time for partners, many working parents don't feel they get enough 'me-time'. Two-thirds (68 percent) of women interviewed said they didn't have enough time for themselves. Men are either better at making time for themselves or need less time, since only a half of men interviewed felt they didn't have enough time to themselves.

Parents do not feel that the government or UK employers are doing enough to help and support working parents, with 79 percent and 76 percent respectively of the parents interviewed saying not enough support is provided. Employers score slightly better than the government overall - 18 percent agree that they do enough, whereas only 13 percent think the government is offering enough help.

Childcare cost is an important issue for working parents. Parents give UK childcare an average score of 4 out of 10 for affordability. Only 25 percent of parents interviewed felt that childcare costs were acceptable.

Not only does a lack of affordable childcare affect the career choices of women in general; it has more of an impact on lower earners. The CIPD's survey findings show that in households with an annual income of less than £20 000 per year, women are most likely to give up work completely. In contrast nearly 60 per cent of higher earners - households earning over £40, 000 per year - report that they are working the same number of hours. This comes as no surprise with the average cost of a nursery place in the UK for a child under two, costing over £6000 per year.

The CIPD and Taylor Nelson Sofres carried out a telephone survey amongst parents in August 20002. The sample included both working parents and those who had stopped work in order to meet family commitments. 504 interviews were completed.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has over 110,000 members and is the leading professional institute for those involved in the management and development of people.

For a copy of the survey, email [email protected]

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