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New survey reveals the limits of family-friendly working practices

pregnant woman at work

Family-friendly benefits and flexible working are out of reach for everyone – including CEOs, founders, and senior leaders

A new survey for Mumsnet’s Family Friendly programme reveals that junior staff and those on low wages are offered less flexibility and fewer family-friendly benefits than well-paid staff in senior positions. However, in a surprising twist, CEOs, MDs, founders and other senior leaders fare worst of all when it comes to family-friendly working.

The results

An analysis of employees’ responses by job role, salary band, employer sector and employer organisation size reveals:

  • CEOs and senior leaders have the least family-friendly working conditions of all the job roles studied.
  • There’s a huge gulf between the quality of family-friendly conditions available to staff paid more than £25,000pa FTE (who tend do much better than average) and those available for staff paid less than £25,000pa FTE (who tend to do much worse).
  • The public sector offers the best overall family-friendly package to its staff – but employees in this sector are the most likely to report experiencing negative attitudes from colleagues over different working practices.
  • The ‘law and professional services’ category offers a package that’s considerably less family-friendly than the average.
  • Large companies and large corporations tend to offer the best family-friendly conditions, but small-to-medium sized enterprises (50-250 employees) offer a worse overall package than smaller companies (10-50 staff).

What do working parents want from their employer?

Working parents with young children are still looking to employers to do more to provide a truly family-friendly working environment.

Childcare costs remain a huge burden, with 17% of those not in paid work citing the cost of childcare as the main factor. Asked to choose from blue-sky items employers could offer, 16% cited ‘an in-house creche or help with emergency childcare’.

73% of respondents (of whom 99% are women) say having children has made it harder to progress in their career, and 64% say they feel less employable since having children.

When asked what their employer does that makes it easier for them to fulfill caring responsibilities, working parents said they particularly valued ‘a genuinely constructive and welcoming attitude towards requests for ad-hoc flexible working’ (27%) and ‘openness on the part of line manager/HR department to non-standard or flexible working patterns’ (19%).

When asked about negative experiences, the results showed a mix of cultural hostility to parents working flexibly or returning after a break; a lack of formal support when returning after a break; and downgrading of roles and responsibilities when returning after a break.

Mumsnet founder and CEO Justine Roberts said: “People think bosses can make their own rules, and to a certain extent they can – but heading up a company or organisation almost always means working harder than you’ve ever worked before, and the reality is that that tends to knock family-friendly working out of the picture. Aspiring leaders with caring responsibilities can be forgiven for wondering what hope there is for accommodating both of these aspects; hopefully they’ll work out how to do things differently.”

View the full report and the data breakdown of results from the survey.