Category Archives: media

Media clipping related to work autonomy, flexibility and work-life balance.

Want more women in top positions? Provide them with more flexibility at work

Heejung Chung, University of Kent

The recent BBC report on the pay of its top earners laid bare the disparities between men and women’s earnings. But it should come as no surprise. The gender pay gap has been stubbornly stagnant over the past decade. According to the EU (which calculates the gap based on hourly pay differences between men and women), men earn around 20% more. And the UK’s official statistics group, which calculates the pay gap of full-time earnings, men earn an average of about 10% more than women.

One core reason for this difference is the tendency for women to drop out of the labour market or move into (bad and low-paid) part-time jobs after having children. Employment data makes this clear.

For example, in 2015, 85% of women between the ages of 25‒49 without children were employed, exactly the same proportion as childless men employed in the same age group. But women are likely to drop out of the labour market or reduce their hours after childbirth, while men are more likely to increase their hours and increase their labour market participation.

The stats show that there is a sharp drop in the employment rate of women with children – to 71% – while the employment rate of fathers rises to more than 90% . Further, only 16% of all women between the ages of 25‒49 without dependent children worked part-time, while this proportion more than triples for women in the same age group with children to 52% .

It isn’t just about working part-time but the quality of part-time work is also a factor. It is widely known that women usually switch to lower-paying, lower-quality jobs when moving into part-time work, due to the lack of high-quality well-paid part-time jobs in the UK .

So the question arises: what can we do to help women maintain their working patterns after childbirth, without sacrificing their careers? My research into flexible working arrangements shows that they can help women maintain their working hours and stay in employment.

Introducing flexitime

Obviously the more flexibility you have at work the better you are able to shape work around family demands. I myself am a good example of this. Coming back to work from having taken six months of maternity leave after the birth of my daughter, I would not have been able to go back to work full-time if it wasn’t for the flexibility I had at work. Given the great amount of freedom you have as an academic to work whenever and wherever you want (within limits), I was able to work full-time by working from home and catching up on work during the weekends and evenings when my baby was asleep or I had other childcare support available. It was hard and I lost a lot of sleep – but through such flexibility I was able to maintain my research career.

I wondered whether similar patterns could be observed for other women in the UK. To investigate, my colleague Mariska van der Horst and I used a data set of 40,000 households to see whether being able to have control over when you work and where you work influences women’s likelihood of remaining in employment and not reducing their working hours significantly (of more than 4 hours) after the birth of their children. The results were remarkable.

In our research, which was published in the journal Human Relations, we found that women who were able to use flexitime were only half as likely to reduce their working hours after the birth of their child. This effect was especially the case for the women who used flexitime prior to the birth of their child as well as after.


Heejung Chung, CC BY-ND

In the overall sample, more than half the women reduced their working hours after the birth of their child. But less than a quarter of the women who were able to use flexitime reduced their hours, with similar results for women who were able to work from home if they wanted to. This shows that, given the chance to work flexibly, many women would stay in work and maintain their hours and their pay after having children.

As I’ve found in previous research, not all jobs allow for flexible work arrangements – and they are not necessarily provided to those in most need of them. Rather, they tend to be given more to high-skilled, higher educated workers in supervisory roles. Another recent study found that a large number of mothers are forced to leave their jobs after flexible working requests were turned down.

The ConversationIt is not only a matter of justice but also a matter of society’s economic prosperity and development to ensure that women are able to remain in the labour market across different stages of the life cycle, including childbirth. The right to flexible working is crucial if we are to tackle the problem of gender inequality in the labour market – especially when it comes to having a balance at the top of the career ladder.

Heejung Chung, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Kent

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Mums forced out due to lack of flexible jobs

Nearly one in five [18%]  of working mums have been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request has been turned down, according to Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey published today .

The survey of over 2,000 women in Workingmums.co.uk’s 10th anniversary year shows that over a quarter of mums in work [26%] have had a flexible working request turned down. Some 12 per cent said their employer did not even seem to consider their request at all and over a quarter [27%] said the reason given for turning down the request was not one which is allowable under flexible working legislation.

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Can flexible working work for men?

Annabel Crabb in conversation with four men, each working flexible hours in various careers. What are the perceptions of men working flexible hours and how does this affect their careers, colleagues and family life?

WAF note: Key points mentioned here about the flexibility bias, how to eliminate them, and how to manage a flexible working workers – and finally flexibility is NOT only about reducing hours!

via the Australian Government’s  Workplace Gender Equality Agency

Flexible working is making us work longer

Freedom is slavery. George Orwell, 1984.

Imagine if you could work whenever and wherever you wanted to. Would you work less and enjoy more time with family and friends? Or would you end up perpetually working, have work spill over into the rest of your life?

Many do not have to imagine what this freedom is like. Roughly a third of all employed workers in the UK have flexibility over their working hours and about a fifth of people work from home on occasion. Across the EU, about 17% of all employed workers have access to flexitime, which means their work start and finish times are flexible. Another 5% have full autonomy over when and how long they work.

Contrary to what you might expect, those with more control over their work schedule work more than those with less control. In fact, people have a tendency to work more overtime hours once they are allowed to work flexibly, compared to when they were not.

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Flexible working: The way of the future? Think Kent Talk by Heejung Chung

The way we work has changed considerably in recent years with an increasing number of people gaining access to flexible working and more control over their work schedules. But in reality, has such flexibility given employees more freedom and autonomy?

Dr Heejung Chung explores the benefits of flexible working and the potential negative effects it can have for workers, especially in the context of increased competition, high unemployment and the decline of worker and union power.

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How To Fix Work-Life Balance for Constantly Connected Millennials – TIME

Younger generations of workers – so called ‘Millennials’ – are used to constantly using new communications technology to constant keep up-to-date with social media and personal email. This has also come to mean that monitoring work emails outside office hours has become routine – blurring the boundaries between work and personal life. A majority of 18-34 year old workers in one survey said that answering work email during dinner way OK, versus only 22% of workers age 55-64.

However, there are signs that younger workers are dissatisfied with the effects of a constant digital connection to their workplace on their work-life balance. This will have implications for employers as younger workers are the most active employee group in seeking better work-life balance; they are the most likely group to move jobs, relocate home or take a pay-cut for better balance and work flexibility.

To attract and retain the best talent, employers will need to better adapt to the demands of these workers who want work-life balance. Examples of how this is being done include shifting management focus from requiring attendance in the office, to looking at ways of allowing workers the flexibility to be work productively. Importantly, this means putting high-levels of trust in workers.

Read more at TIME.

The Feminist Case For Paternity Leave – Huffington Post

To promote women at work, companies should be looking to provide men with more benefits, including committing to offering paternity leave.

Making leave for new parents gender-neutral, allowing both new mothers and fathers time to look after their child, would help to reduce the ‘motherhood’ penalty faced by women who, after taking parental leave, are less likely to be promoted and earn less than their male colleagues.

For paternity leave policies to have any affect, however, companies must do more than announce them. Rather, they need to encourage men to use them and help change workplace cultures where men fear taking paternity leave will damage their careers.

 

The more men that take paternity leave the sooner it will be normalised. This will mean new fathers and their child can benefit from more time spent together, and also that women will no longer face the stigma of taking maternity leave.

 

Read more the Huffington Post.

Presenteeism over productivity: why flexible working needs a rebrand – The Guardian

Despite the popularity, and range, of discussion about flexible working it remains viewed as something pursued only by those without ambition.

That is, flexible working is viewed, simply, as working less. This is problematic as contemporary work cultures still reward working long hours, “as if our achievements are somehow less impressive if we haven’t sweated blood and sacrificed our sanity, health and home life to get there”.

 

The stereotypical flexible worker tends to be a parent (usually a mother) trying to adapt their work schedules with childcare. However, there is a larger pool of people who don’t have family commitments and don’t want to cut their hours, but who would still like to take advantage of flexible working practices and benefits it could bring to their personal and working lives.

Yet, while flexible working remains seen as a second-class option it will not deliver its potential in promoting employee retention and productivity. Workplaces need to undergo a cultural change wherein mere ‘presenteeism’ isn’t accord special significance over more meaningful measures of employee achievement at work.

Read more at The Guardian.

Flexible working key to solving sickness absence – Workplace Savings and Benefits

One in five UK workers have called in sick due to unmanageable stress – and 93% of these workers gave a different reason for their absence.

Excessive workloads, long hours and poor work-life balance are often cited as causing workplace stress. As such, to help reduce workplace stress employers have been urged to allow flexible working as a means of improving work-life balance and mental wellbeing.

 

Read more at Workplace Savings and Benefits.

Men wanting more time for parenting must demand flexible workplaces – The Age

In Australia, it remains taken for granted that women will take primary responsibility for childcare. It is women who are overwhelmingly the stay-at-home child carers, and women who work part-time to accommodate childcare needs.

While many men might want to take on childcare responsibility there are factors that prevent them from doing so. The gender pay gap means that men often earn more than their female partners, making it more likely women who will give up work. It’s also the case that too few workplaces in Australia offer flexible work arrangements.

This lack of flexible working arrangements make it difficult for men to take on childcare responsibilities. Importantly, however, men must be active in asking for flexible work, to shift cultural expectations and make it the norm.

Read more at The Age.