Need to boost workplace flexibility for the lower paid

A report published in January 2017 by Family Friendly Working Scotland (FFWS) highlights that parents with low earnings are more likely to be in jobs which don’t allow flexible working options. The research found adults in the most affluent income bracket are 23% more likely to have access to flexible hours than those in the worst-off 20%.

FFWS undertook the research because much of the debate around flexible working in recent years has been concentrated among middle and high income employers and employees, where flexibility has grown to be viewed as a point of competitive advantage. Less attention has been focused on the experiences of low income families, although there is growing concern about the economic situation of ‘just managing families’.

The research indicated that:

  • Parents on higher incomes are more than twice as likely to have access to paid time off when a child is ill than those on the lowest incomes
  • Low income parents with access to flexible working had higher levels of mental wellbeing (66%) compared to those without access (57%)
  • Parents with flexible working options were also more likely to rate their employer highly than those who did not. Eight out of ten (80%) parents rated employers who provide flexibility as ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ good, compared to fewer than five out of ten (46%) for employers not providing flexibility
  • Almost one in three (30%) low income parents feels that work commitments mean they have missed out on home or family activities they would have liked to have taken part in

In the focus groups and interview many parents described themselves as ‘passing ships’ because they don’t get time together. This is the thing that families would most like to change about their work life balance. 

The impact of work on family life, relationships and wellbeing, along with the cost of childcare, leads to many low income parents reducing or giving up work entirely. A combination of flexible working and appropriate support with childcare can reduce stress within the family, enhancing mental and physical wellbeing and supporting family relationships. It can also help retain parents, especially mothers, in the workplace, to the long term benefit of their employers and the wider economy. Crucially, there needs to be genuine choice for families about their balance between work and home, time and money.

FFWS, a partnership between PAS, Fathers Network Scotland, Working Families and the Scottish Government, who fund the programme. FFW aims to increase the amount of workers who have access to family friendly working in Scotland.