Childcare is one of the key issues faced by families across the country. Finding the right childcare which is affordable is becoming increasingly difficult. As the Easter holidays start as well as the official launch of election campaign season, many families will be feeling the financial and time pressures that childcare involves. Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families has addressed the issue of modern family life in the following article that was first published in Flexible Boss Magazine, March 2015.
“The Modern Families Index, published recently by Working Families and Bright Horizons, highlights the importance families place on dependable childcare and that women in particular are having to think carefully as they consider promotion opportunities because of childcare issues.
Young fathers are becoming increasingly involved in caring for their children and more than half (52%) drop their children at school every day or most of the time. But being more hands-on is proving difficult at work, where the culture is often out of sync with fathers’ aspirations for family life.
We found that time off for family reasons and discussing family at work is increasingly acceptable for fathers, and more feel confident doing it. But discussing workload and putting boundaries upon work is something fewer men are confident about.
Family is parents’ highest priority, and policy-makers and employers need to recognise that working with the grain of parents’ values is likely to create happier, more effective employees. Parents are putting in extra time at work just to get the job done due to a combination of work pressure, jobs growing too large to be done within ‘normal’ hours, and a workplace culture that values presenteeism and long hours.
Work stress is significant and not abating, and the negative results often spill over into both family life and back into the workplace. Forty-one per cent of parents said that work life is becoming increasingly stressful.
Work is also affecting physical health. At a time when public health policy is focusing on improving wellbeing and diet, it is eroding the time parents have to make healthy choices, such as exercising or cooking properly. We believe working arrangements need to be configured to support working families in leading healthy lifestyles, not impinge on their time to live healthily.
The report also shows mixed attitudes emerging towards Shared Parental Leave (SPL). Parents favour more equality in caring responsibilities, but there are also strong gendered beliefs about the importance of the role of the mother. In addition, two in five parents anticipate that they will become a carer in the next 10 years.
Getting work right for parents and families is essential. Not only must it pay well enough to support family life, but it also needs to be alive to the realities of parents’ responsibilities outside of the workplace. The growth and spread of flexible working and enhancements to parental leave arrangements show many employers (and the government) are trying to tailor practices to fit in with employees’ lives. But some parents do not have a full range of flexible options available to them and substantial obstacles remain: workplace cultures that still implicitly encourage longer hours; negative perceptions of flexible working and career (and income) progression; and a lack of affordable, available and appropriate childcare.
The responsibility for a good work-life balance is not only the concern of parents: it is a joint one between individuals, employers and the government”
Flexible Boss provides independent journalism and research on flexible working in the United Kingdom and beyond. From policy to property; transport to technology; human resources to legal challenges, Flexible Boss is a resource for employers to come together and share best practice. The magazine promotes flexible working innovation as a solution to many of the challenges facing the economy and workforce, while recognising the challenges of implementing this philosophy. Here is a link to the third issue in which Sarah Jackson’s article appeared: http://issuu.com/flexibleboss/docs/fb_issue_3_march_2015?e=12328288/11750413