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Flexi must be for all

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Flexible Working rights should be for all, say working Families in National Work-Life Week. With 40 percent of parents feel constantly torn between work and home, only 41 percent of parents leave work on time every day and yet only 46 percent of parents work flexibly.

This week is National Work-Life Week when the charity Working Families calls on employers, policymakers, families and individuals to tackle some of the causes of conflict between work and family life. A new survey for Working Families, the charity behind the Week, suggests that few working parents feel they’ve got the balance right with 40 percent feeling constantly torn between the two, despite the fact that parents have the right to request flexible working arrangements that could help.

A major problem is working long hours – whether people are part-time, full-time, regular nine-to-five or shift workers, staying late is commonplace with over half citing workload pressures. The impact on families and individuals is huge, with 43 percent saying they feel more stressed by work than they did three years ago, and three quarters reporting impact on their relationships with their children, rising to 80 percent reporting that relationships with their partners are suffering. Economic pressures on individuals and businesses may be making people feel there is no choice but to keep on working longer and longer, but the reality is that stressed-out workers are less productive. People work better when they have a sense of control over their working hours and can balance their lives properly, and the organisations who offer flexible working options for all consistently see better results for employee engagement.

The new survey confirms that apart from giving up work altogether, the main things parents would like to do to improve their work-life balance are to work fewer hours, work from home some of the time, have flexible working options and have less of a long-hours culture at work. All of these are relatively simple things for employers to offer, and this National Work-Life Week many will be doing just that either by launching new policies or highlighting their existing ones. For others though, there’s still a long way to go. Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families, explains: “This is our first annual survey of parents to find out how work is affecting home life, and it’s clear that the daily struggle to balance work and life is still a reality for most. What’s infuriating is that simple adjustments to working practices could make a real difference, but there’s an unhelpful perception that flexible working is just for mothers.

Fathers and other employees who also need a better work-life balance are losing out, and parents themselves can feel inhibited about putting in a request where the culture is unwelcoming. Businesses do so much better when their people are properly engaged, so this National Work-Life Week we’re urging the Government to extend the statutory right to request flexible working to all employees, as the Top Thirty Employers for Working Families already do with great success. The best employers recognize that flexible working for all is a win for their businesses as well as a win for employees and their families.”

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