Tag Archives: Flexitime

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.

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.

Continue reading

Working Paper 1: The Provision of Flexitime

The Work, Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance (WAF) Project today releases its first working paper by principal investigator Heejung Chung.

This paper examines the provision of flexitime in companies across a number of European countries. The results show that company composition, structure and agency factors all play a role in explaining the provision of flexitime. However, the factors explaining the provision of flexitime within each country are not necessarily the same as those explaining how companies provide it to employees.

Cross-national variance in the provision of flexitime in 2009 can be explained mostly through national level demand: female labour market participation rates, cultural norms on work, as well as the affluence of the country. This is a change from 2004, where the most important factors explaining the provision of flexitime were government efforts in providing family policy and the size of the public sector.

Overall, this paper shows that the more relevant factors in explaining why companies provide flexitime, especially as related to cross-national differences, seem to be based on the demand for such policies and the available resources to meet the demands.

You can download the full working paper here.

Making choices between policies and real lives

Barbara Hobson draws on the research of a team within a large European Network of Excellence, Reconciling work and welfare (RECWOWE), many of whom are authors in the recent book, Worklife Balance: The Agency and Capabilities Gap, focusing on the individual/household, firm and managerial level and welfare state policy context across European countries and Japan. In this post she discusses the choices faced by those who seek to take advantage of work-life balance policies. Continue reading

Living and working in Europe 2014 – Eurofound

The Eurofound 2014 Yearbook on Living and Working in Europe covers recent employment trends, highlights job creation and job loss has occurred, and suggests where investment in future growth is best directed.

Amongst its findings, data show that of those establishments that offer working time flexibility 44% do so only on a limited basis, with 35% having a selective offering. Only 20% of establishments have schemes that are encompassing; i.e. offer a broad range of flexible working time arrangements that usually are available to most or all employees.

However, analysis shows that those establishments offering flexible work on a encompassing basis have higher levels of performance and employee wellbeing. Those with selective provision have similar levels of well-being but lower performance, while limited provision establishments have lower performance and well-being than those with encompassing schemes.

Read more at Eurofound.

Dads struggle to find work-life balance – Business Matters

Interviews with fathers who have children under school age have shown that almost two thirds feel that their work pattern does not suit their needs. A quarter say they are unhappy with their work-life balance.

Half these fathers, who represent a range of sectors and seniority levels, suggested that remote working or flexitime would help their situation. However, a similar proportion were afraid to ask for flexible working as it would demonstrate a lack of commitment. 42% felt that it would affect their career progression.

Read more at Business Matters.

 

The Problem with Part-Time Work Is That It’s Rarely Part-Time – Harvard Business Review

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.

Flexible Work: Nice, if You Can Get It – New York Times

This article describes some of the ways in which US workers experience flexible working (or the lack thereof).

Positive accounts note that flexible hours are ‘worth their weight in gold’ and worth taking a lower paying job for. Though successful deployment and use of flexible working policies requires managers to become ‘comfortable with what productivity and accountability looks like in a telework/flexible schedule setting’.

Others, however, are more cautious. One respondent noted that because they have a flexible work schedule, between part-time and freelance work, they have become the ‘go-to parent’ for caring for a sick child, making doctors appointments et cetera, while their paid workload remains the same. The results are ‘often stressful and exhausting, especially when the two careers get busy at the same time’.

And there remain, of course, many who still have zero-flexibility in their jobs, which causes issues around maintaining a work-life balance. Many respondents noted that this still has the effect of producing families wherein work is split between one wage-earner and one caregiver.

Read more at the New York TImes.

Flex Time Doesn’t Need to Be an HR Policy – HBR Blog

This article reports data from a new survey of working men. It notes that informal flexibility arrangements are much more prevalent, with 66% reporting ad-hoc arrangements. Only 29% reported having regularly scheduled flexible working arrangements.

The author suggests that the prevalence of informal arrangements may be a boon as it normalise flexible working. This may encourage more employees to take advantage of flexible working with reduced workplace stigma, and spur employers and employees to embrace flexibility in the future.

Read more at HBR Blog.

Family Roles as Moderators of the Relationship Between Schedule Flexibility and Stress – Jang et al.

Using US data, this study explored the mediating role of negative work–family spillover in the relationship between schedule flexibility and employee stress, and the moderating roles of gender, family workload and single-parent status.

It demonstrates that though schedule flexibility was associated with less employee stress, the associations between these factors were mediated by perceptions of negative work–family spillover.

Schedule flexibility reduced negative work–family spillover and stress among women, single parents, and employees with heavier family workloads. As such, the authors maintain this supports schedule flexibility as a means of reducing stress for those employees with family responsibilities.

Jang, Soo Jung; Zippay, Allison; Park, Rhokeun (2012) “Family Roles as Moderators of the Relationship Between Schedule Flexibility and Stress” Journal of Marriage and Family, 74

Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.00984.x/abstract