'Parenthood penalty' affecting pay and family life

Parents are working longer than their contracted working hours, creating tensions in family life and personal wellbeing, according to the latest Modern Families Index.

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Published today by the charity Working Families and international childcare provider Bright Horizons, the study warns of the strains working parents face balancing employment and family demands. The report suggest excessive workloads mean many parents feel obliged to work longer than their contracted hours, which is putting personal and family wellbeing under pressure. It is calling for more “human-sized” jobs that allow parents to fulfil their workplace potential.

Expectations leading to over-work and under-payment?

Of the 2,761 parents studied, for those contracted to work 35– 36 hours per week, four in ten put in extra hours. For almost of third of this group, this amounts to an extra seven hours – one working day – each week.For a similar number contracted to work 25 hours per week, around a third again routinely put in enough hours to qualify as full-time workers and clock up 35 hours per week.These extra hours on average amount to £2,429 each year for parents working full-time (38 hours per week). For those working part-time (24 hours per week), this is £1,927 on average per year. It means the price tag could be £4,858 for households where both parents work full-time.

Balancing work and family life

The figures also paint a worrying picture for parents in the UK around work-life balance. Nearly half (47%) of respondents acknowledge that work affects their ability to spend time together as a family. For many parents, the right to request flexible working has also not made a difference because they are unable to access it. Fewer than half of parents do not work flexibly or feel flexible working is a genuine option.The impact of Britain’s long-hours culture on wellbeing is profound, the report suggests, and a direct cause of tension at home as working parents struggle to cope with the strain of overwork.To combat this, working parents report deliberately stalling and downshifting their careers to reverse the negative impact of work on family life.Nearly one in five (18%) say they have deliberately stalled their career and one in ten (11%) have refused a new job or rejected a promotion because of the limited work life balance opportunities.These findings could resonate strongly with employers looking to relocate employees and across borders. Family considerations remain high on the list of challenges to getting international moves underway. Unresolved, they are also a key reason for assignment failure.
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The wellbeing impact of overwork

A third of working parents say they feel burnt out “all or most of the time.” More than half identify work as their main cause of burnout.Working overtime was also linked to eating less healthily for 38% of respondents and doing limited exercise for 42%. More than a quarter of parents (28%) also reported that their work leads to arguments with their partner.There are also impacts on family support. For nearly two in five parents (39%), work prevents them from being able to say goodnight to their children often or all the time. For more than two in five parents (42%), work prevents them being able to help their children with their homework.Commenting in the 2018 Modern Families Index, 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.“Parents are responding to the pressures on them by acting – deliberately stalling and downshifting their careers. With more than 11 million working parents in the UK, our economy can ill afford this ‘parenthood penalty’. Our findings should be a wake-up call for UK plc.“We need a more widespread, genuinely flexible approach to work. But on its own, flexible working is not enough if all it delivers is the flexibility to manage a bumper workload. “We need human-sized jobs that allows parents to fulfil their labour market potential and give families back the time together they need to thrive.  This should be central to the government’s forthcoming review of its right to request flexible working legislation.”

Long hours culture putting strain on family life

James Tugendhat, managing director, International at Bright Horizons, added: “The Index highlights the UK’s long hours culture is putting severe strain on family life in the UK. Many parents are working unsustainable hours to make ends meet, returning home stressed and exhausted.“There is great opportunity for families, employers and government to work collaboratively and find successful solutions which enable working parents to thrive both at home and in the workplace.“We have seen fantastic examples of leading employers already addressing this important issue, however for those yet to do so we urge them to take action sooner rather than later.“Families must see these in practice and embedded at all levels to feel confident in creating a work-life balance that truly works for them.”
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