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Three-quarters of parents lack flexibility to juggle childcare

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Just a quarter of parents work from home or juggle their hours to fit around childcare, despite a law being introduced a year ago that gives everyone more power to request flexible working, according to research* by budgeting account provider thinkmoney.

The new law, introduced in June 2014, gives employees who have worked for the same company for 26 weeks the right to ask their employer for more flexible working arrangements. Yet, just 13 percent of parents say they take advantage of flexi hours, either starting later or leaving earlier, and only 14 percent say they work from home, the figures show.

While there is no difference between the sexes when it comes to working from home, mothers are almost twice as likely to have to take unpaid leave or use holidays to cover gaps in childcare than fathers. Women (20 percent) are also much more likely than men (7 percent) to work flexible hours to juggle childcare.

As Britain continues to recover from the financial crisis, concerns about job security is prompting more than half of parents to commit to normal hours so they can be seen to be part of the team, the survey shows. More concerning is that 15 percent of parents feel pressured to work longer hours than they would like to. That’s not surprising when 14 percent of those questioned said they often receive disapproving looks or banter from colleagues when they leave work on time to pick-up children. The survey indicates that there is a divide among workers over attitudes towards childcare. Those without children are perceived by a quarter of parents as being less sympathetic to the childcare needs of their colleagues.

Some parents complained that their employers were equally unsympathetic. Some 8 percent said they receive disapproving looks from their boss when leaving work on time and the same number felt their boss favoured colleagues without children. Ian Williams, a spokesman for thinkmoney, says: “Technology makes it easier for many people to work flexibly, which can ease the stress of parents trying to juggle childcare and work commitments. It can only help employees to feel motivated and perform better at work when their employers are supportive of their work-home balance. “The research suggests that there also needs to be a change in people’s views about what it means to work flexibly. This isn’t about doing fewer hours, but about being able to balance work and childcare in a grown-up way so employees come to work feeling valued and motivated.”

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