Parents struggling with unsupportive work cultures

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​Tackling unsupportive workplace cultures is crucial to helping parents achieve a better work/life balance, according to new research

The 2018 Modern Families Index: how employers can support UK's working families , published by Working Families and Bright Horizons, explored the limitations of policies like flexible working, and found that unsupportive workplace cultures were a key barrier holding working parents back.

When asked what employers should do to improve work/life balance for working families, the factor most frequently cited by the working parents surveyed, was employers making efforts to change company culture (37%). This was followed by 35% stating that employers should put more policies in place, and 28% said employers should use existing policies to better support their work/life balance.

The research found flexible working practices to be relatively ineffective in improving work/life balance where parents have large workloads. The majority (81%) of parents who said they worked flexibly still had to bring work home in the evenings or at weekends.

The research suggested that this could have ramifications for organisations. When parents were asked how they felt about their employer in terms of work/life balance, more than a third (34%) of parents said they felt resentful, with more fathers than mothers agreeing (37% compared with 32%).

Millennials were the most negative, with 46% of Millennial fathers saying they felt resentful; the highest proportion among any age group of parents.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said employers must take the issue of workplace culture seriously to improve work/life balance.

“While work is badly organised and workplace cultures are unsupportive of work/life balance the best policies aimed at supporting working parents won’t translate to a better lived experience," she said.

“Parents, particularly Millennial parents, are looking for human-sized jobs and supportive workplace cultures that genuinely allow them to combine work and family. Employers whose approach to organising work and underlying workplace culture hasn’t caught up with their family-friendly policies may find that, for parents, they aren’t an employer of choice.

“Tackling workplace culture – for so long the elephant in the room – is vital to future-proofing businesses, unlocking working parents’ potential, tackling the gender pay gap and harnessing the business benefits of family-friendly and flexible working.”

Working Families' and Bright Horizons' Modern Families Index 2018 was based on a survey of 2,750 working parents with children under the age of 13.

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