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Employers urged to tackle ‘parenthood penalty’

Employers urged to tackle ‘parenthood penalty’

How are your organisation’s parents coping with balancing work and family life? If you can’t answer that with any great conviction, you need to start asking the right questions to get a clearer picture of the situation.

A major new study suggests many parents are finding themselves having to work over their contracted hours to stay on top of their workload – or staying on past time because they feel it is expected of them.

The 2018 Modern Families Index, published by work life charity Working Families and Bright Horizons, reveals that:

  • Work robs 39% of parents of the opportunity to say goodnight to their children often or all the time – a similar number (42%) said work means they can’t help their children with their homework
  • Work causes arguments at home for more than a quarter of parents (28%)
  • Working overtime leads to eating less healthily for 38% of respondents and doing limited exercise for 42%
  • Two in five parents contracted to work 35-40 hours per week are working extra hours, often unpaid

There are plenty more findings like these in the report – but in short, Britain’s long-hours culture is affecting parents’ wellbeing, as well their ability to spend time with their family.

However, parents aren’t prepared to endure it for very long, with many taking action to ensure they have a healthier work/life balance. The study showed that some parents have deliberately stalled their careers to bring about some stability, which extends to refusing a new job and rejecting a promotion.

Commenting on the findings, Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “For mothers and for fathers, becoming a parent looks like a bad career move. Because the norm for people who want to get ahead is still to show up early, leave late and be on email out of hours – and parents have less time to give, putting them at a disadvantage.”

She added that the “parenthood penalty” will ultimately affect businesses as well as parents, and called for employers to adopt a “genuinely flexible approach to work”. But, the report shows that simply allowing parents to work remotely isn’t enough, with more than a third (37%) of parents that work flexibly saying they felt burnt out all or most of the time (compared to 27% of those that said they don’t work flexibly).

Employers were urged to take action “sooner rather than later” to tackle the “parenthood penalty”. First things first, it’s about creating informal settings for parents to openly discuss how they’re coping. Only then can you think about building a solution that helps parents.

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