Recently we were invited to talk about flexible working at The PA Club’s January Discussion Forum. It was a lively session of PAs and Team Leaders from a number of industries including the legal and accounting sector. It’s great to attend a session like this, particularly when everyone is so passionate about the subject. It
Equal lives and flexible working
We attended the recent Gender Pay Gap seminar at Hogan Lovells where we met Kaammini Chanrai who was presenting her findings on responsible flexible working for responsible businesses and we invited her to guest blog for us on her recent research in partnership with Santander. There is some really interesting findings and well worth the read.
Business in the Community’s Equal Lives research, in partnership with Santander UK, has identified a number of problems with how we currently implement flexible working. We know that 84% of men with caring responsibilities feel it is important to be able to work flexibly, however only 59% feel they are able to. Let’s compare this to women with caring responsibilities: 91% feel the ability to work flexibly is important, and 73% feel they are able to.
These figures tell us some key things. Firstly, both men and women with caring responsibilities value flexible working above any other family-friendly policy. When provided with a list of different policies and initiatives which organisations offer to support parents and carers, flexible working significantly trumped line manager support, mentoring and coaching, employee networks and senior role models.
Secondly, women claim they are able to work flexibly more than men. Women are also more likely to have adapted their way of working with flexible working than men (83% and 70% respectively). It’s true that women are still eight times more likely to take the lead or main role in caring for children. Yet 85% of men agree that men should be as involved in all aspects of childcare as women. So if men want to care more, what’s stopping them?
Of course, there are significant barriers preventing men from wanting to use flexible working policies, which is one factor. Women, some of these related difficulties might sound familiar. 66% of men said they would be encouraged to use more family-friendly policies if they were confident it wouldn’t impact their career. The impact of organisational culture within this is huge: twice the amount of men with caring responsibilities feel that their organisation expects men to put work above family commitments than it does women.
The role of line managers is instrumental too. 93% of line managers said that they encourage agile and flexible working. However, this does not seem to be echoed employees. And although nine out of ten line managers feel confident responding to the needs of employees with caring responsibilities, only one out of three have received training or advice on how to better support employees who need to balance work and care responsibilities.
Thirdly, both men and women with caring responsibilities are not able to work as flexibly as they’d like to – for men, this gap between what they want and what they get is 25% and for women, this is 18%. Employees told us that policy did not always translate into practice – the ability to work flexibly did not just depend on your line manager but on your team, on your office and on your department within an organisation. We also heard from employees about the long working hours culture which flexible working sometimes encouraged. They felt like they were ‘always on’ rather than limited to their contracted hours, because of the ability to work remotely, the technology they were provided with and the guilt of colleagues having to cover their workload if they took time off.
We heard from over 10,000 men and women on these issues. The Equal Lives report uncovers the barriers men face with caring, what organisations can do to enable men to care more and the impact this has on women’s progression at work. Our recommendations guide employers through important areas for improvement. In particular, we call for better information, better policies and better training. We want flexible working to be implemented responsibly – that’s one step for how we can achieve more equal lives.
Business in the Community’s Equal Lives research is in partnership with Santander UK with research conducted by Avenir Consulting. Please click here to read the Equal Lives report.
Thank you to Kaammini for sharing her research. If you would like to share your stories or research please do get in contact with firstname.lastname@example.org