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.
Many mothers looking to return work assume part-time schedules would be an ideal solution. However, research shows that many of those working mothers on official part-time schedules work well outside the bounds of them. Researcher Laura Vanderkam points out that:
Even though the part-timers had often taken pay cuts, and risked being seen as less committed to their careers than full-time colleagues, they weren’t necessarily working that much less.
Thus, rather than shifting to part-time contracts, returning mothers should consider returning full-time but with flexible working patterns.
Read more at Harvard Business Review.
A survey of 500 hiring managers and more than 1,500 professionals across Australia and New Zealand has shown what employers and employees fear most about flexible working.
For staff, the biggest concern is that they’ll be perceived as lazy (51%). This is followed by fear that flexible work will have negative impacts on their career progression (43%) and fear of resentment from co-workers (38%).
Employers are most concerned about not treated all employees equally (51%). There are also issues of trust, the following two concerns being employee abuse of flexible policies (49%) and difficulty in supervising employees who work flexibly (44%).
Read more at Business Insider.
US employers are increasingly using ‘just-in-time scheduling’ to meet demands. This involves using up-to-the-minute data to make staffing decisions in real-time, meaning that employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re needed and avoid paying wages to workers unnecessarily:
Employers assign workers tentative shifts, and then notify them a half-hour or ten minutes before the shift is scheduled to begin whether they’re actually needed. Some even require workers to check in by phone, email, or text shortly before the shift starts.
Just-in-time scheduling is one part of the US’s new ‘flexible’ economy and is lauded by business leaders for improving control over costs.
However, it can have a negative impact on employees as steady hours and predictable pay are eroded. As well as affecting individuals’ financially, it also make planning responsibilities such as childcare. ‘Just-in-time’ scheduling and other forms of flexible work ‘businesses more efficient, but it’s a nightmare for working families’.
Read more at The Huffington Post.
A new survey reports on employer and employee perceptions of work-life balance and flexible working.
It notes that 67% of employers feel workers have work-life balance, while nearly half (45%) of employees disagree. Similarly, while 50% of employers ranked workplace flexibility as the most important benefit they believe their employees desire, it was the highest priority for 75% of employees.
It also found that 65% of employees are expected to be reachable outside of the office. A similar number of employers (64%) reported that they expect their employees to be reachable outside of the office on their personal time.
Read more at CareerArc.
Reporting on new data from the Netherlands, this article notes that flex workers are less satisfied with their jobs and lives than those with permanent working contracts. Flex workers are less satisfied with their pay, training and career opportunities when compared to permanent staff.
It goes on to note that while in 2002 80% of workers had permanent working contracts within six to ten years of entering the workforce, that has now extended to between ten and fifteen years.
Read more at NL Times.
New research finds that though 97% of UK workplaces offer at least one form of flexible working, including job sharing, flexitime and working remotely, over the past six years there had not been great increases in take-up. Furthermore, only 19% of working women in the UK were able to vary the hours they work, this is compared to 41% in Sweden.
This is despite major UK policy initiatives designed to extend the uptake of flexible working.
It is suggested that cultural factors may explain low uptake – over 40% of employees, male and female, reporting that they would feel uncomfortable asking to work flexibly.
Read more at the FT.
Only 23%, or just over 1 in 5, UK workers have submitted requests for flexible working since the government legislation was introduced six months ago.
Research from O2 business shows that while 54% of workers were aware of their right to flexible working, there remain barriers to their taking advantage of it. Issues cited included lack of trust (31%), business culture (28%) and a lack of resources to work outside the office (28%).
Read more at HR Review.
Dr. Jade S. Jenkins is currently the academic assessment coordinator at Texas A&M – Texarkana. She earned her Ph.D in social and industrial-organizational psychology from Northern Illinois University, and her research interests include occupational health psychology, stereotypes, and the self . Here she writes about how those who utilize family-friendly policies may face stigma from colleagues and managers. Continue reading
This report starts by noting that there is a ‘significant’ gap in male and female employment across Europe. It argues that this means economies are failing to utilise their full potential. In particular it highlights:
- Low rates of female employment, which effects economic output.
- A high prevalence of women working below their ‘qualification grade’, which might have effects in terms of a sub-optimal allocation of skills across an economy.
- Underemployment in terms of hours – particularly a persistent yet variable gap in working hours between men and women across typical life phases, which raises issues of productivity, staff retention and recruitment costs at the level of the firm.
The report looks at how flexible working options may play a part in addressing such negative outcomes. Furthermore, it also examines the challenges and opportunities that increased flexible working might offer. Findings include:
- Increased part-time work and employee schedule control can be associated with an increased female employment rate.
- The concentration of part-time work in low-level jobs may increase the tendency for women to work in occupations below their skill level.
- Part-time work is often the main flexible working option, possibly leading to: unnecessarily low average working hours among new mothers, and mothers’ average working hours continuing to remain low throughout their careers.
- High-levels of demand for a larger range of flexible working options among working women.
Read more at the IPPR.