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working parents 246How families are combining work and family life

From Working Families

Earlier this year, Working Families published their 3rd Modern Families Index - a snapshot of family life in the UK today. In particular, it focuses on how families combine work and family life and how successfully parents feel they are combining family and work in the way that they want to.

They had responses from 1000 working parents from across the UK. To participate in the survey there had to be at least one working parent or carer (full or part-time) in the household, with at least one resident dependant under 14 years old. Here are some extracts from the report:

A snapshot of families in the UK today

There are 4.7 million married (opposite and same sex) or civil partner couple families with dependent children in the UK. There are 1.2 million cohabiting couples with dependent children and 1.9 million lone parent families with dependent children. In 2015, women accounted for 90 per cent of lone parents with dependent children. Married couples had a higher average number of dependent children in their family than other family types, at 1.8 children per family compared with 1.7 on average and 1.6 for single parent households.

95% of couple families with one or two dependent children had one or both parents working compared with 87% of couple families with three or more dependent children. Similarly, 62% of lone parents with one or two dependent children were working compared with 38% of lone parents with three or more dependent children.

Households with a father working full-time and a mother working part-time has decreased from 37% in 2001 to 31% in 2011 as more mothers work full-time. Fathers tend to work longer hours, and, although the overall rate of long hours worked by fathers has declined in recent years, UK fathers still work some of the longest hours in Europe. Maternal breadwinners (where women are the main earner) are increasing in number. One in three mothers in working families earn at least half of household earnings.

Family incomes remain under pressure and families continue to experience the effects of the recession and austerity and subsequent low levels of wage growth.

The use of childcare in the UK is widespread. Estimates place the use of childcare as high as 68 per cent, with around half of families using more than one type of childcare. Grandparents are an essential part of childcare provision in the UK. Nearly three in five grandparents provide regular childcare. Parents in the UK spend 33% of their net household income on childcare compared to an OECD average of 13 per cent. A report found that almost 20% of  parents were considering either giving up work or reducing their hours because of childcare costs.

Key findings of the Modern Families Index 2016

More parents are working full-time.For these parents, the traditional dominant arrangement of a father working full-time and a mother working part-time is receding. In 49% of couple
households both parents are working full-time.

Seniority allows for flexible working. There is evidence that people on higher incomes are more likely to work flexibly. Nearly 80% of those earning between £50,000 and £70,000 reported they are able to access flexible working. Only 50% of those earning less than £30,000 did.

Parents continue to put in extra hours just to get the job done. In some cases an additional ten hours a week.

Working parents are increasingly feeling “burnout”. This is due to the toll of family and work obligations. A third of parents (29%) reported being burned out often or all the time and
many take annual or sick leave to cope. Family life is a priority for most parents, but work consistently impinges. This prevents parents from helping children with homework or putting them to bed. 40% said this happened regularly.

Millennial parents (aged 16-35) are the more likely to both work full-time, work flexibly and share caring responsibilities. However, millennials are struggling to maintain these commitments and it is millennial parents who are particularly prone to burnout. In addition, millennials are the most likely to say they would like to downshift and the most willing to take a pay cut to find a better balance. The idea of career progression characterised by long hours and sacrifice of family life is less prominent in their mindset. From an employer perspective this poses questions about engagement, loyalty and performance - how will work have to be configured to meet the expectations of millennials? For policy makers there are also questions: how can compatible flexibility be supported, and how can barriers to equal share of care be addressed and removed? How, effectively, can policy be designed to work with the grain of the work-life fit aspirations and needs of young families?

There is a muted response to the government’s proposed increase in free childcare. Parents aren’t planning substantial changes in response to the planned increase in government support for childcare. Only 14 per cent said it would have a significant impact on their plans.

For women, recruitment and childcare go hand-in-hand. Women remain more likely than men to consider childcare responsibilities before taking a new job: over 60% of women strongly agree that they would need to do this compared to 36% of men.

Fathers are doing more. More than one in five fathers now say they share care, with younger parents the most likely to report working flexibly and sharing family responsibilities. But gendered work expectations still persist: mothers remain the first port of call when childcare breaks down by a factor of two to one
A mother’s work is never done. Although all parents prioritise spending time with children when getting home from work, traditional gender roles still persist in the home. For example,
mothers (nearly 45%) are more likely than fathers (just under 25%) to start doing domestic chores straight away.

Read and/or download the full report here.

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Working Families, 21/11/2016

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