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18 January 2019
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Report provides a roadmap for employers © iStock

24 May 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Tackling unsupportive 
workplace cultures is crucial in helping parents achieve a better work life balance, according to research. 


The 2018 Modern Families Index: How Employers Can Support the UK’s Working Families, published by work-life balance charity Working Families and Bright Horizons, exposes the limitations of policies like flexible working, while unsupportive workplace cultures remain in place.


Many parents feel compelled to work far beyond their contracted hours to meet managers’ expectations and to progress in their careers. 


When parents were asked how they felt about their employer in terms of work-life balance, over a third (34 per cent) of parents say they feel resentful, with more fathers than mothers agreeing (37 per cent vs. 32 per cent). Millennials are the most resentful; 46 per cent of millennial fathers feel resentful – the highest proportion of any group of parents.


Working parents are taking decisive action, says the report. To tackle the trade-off between work and family commitments, parents have stalled their careers, refused a new job or turned down a promotion.


This attempt to rebalance is most prevalent in younger parents, with 41 per cent of millennial parents intending to downshift into a less stressful job, and 36 per cent willing to take a pay cut to work fewer hours.


Although the index found that flexible working affords parents the best means of gaining some control over their working lives, most parents (81 per cent) who say they worked flexibly still had to bring work home in the evenings or at weekends.


The study finds that, for many parents, flexible working cannot deliver work-life balance if they are battling an unrealistic workload. It must be accompanied by better job design, effective organisation and management and most importantly by a culture that truly supports balance.


It reveals that working parents understand this. When asked what employers should do to ensure a good work life balance, the most popular option is ‘make efforts to change the company culture so work-life balance is more acceptable’ (37 per cent). The next most popular choice is ‘put more policies in place to help balance work and home’ (35 per cent). The third most popular is ‘encourage people to use existing policies to help their work life balance’ (28 per cent).


Denise Priest, director of employer & strategic partnerships at Bright Horizons, said: “Without a supportive, family-friendly workplace culture, it is unlikely that policies and measures designed to support working carers will prove truly effective, however well-intentioned. By contrast, employers who create and nurture an environment where it is not only acceptable but expected for individuals to make their needs known and to take up support where it is offered, experience a true return on investment in terms of employee loyalty and performance.”


The report provides a roadmap for employers interested in supporting parents at work and in future-proofing their business has been launched to mark Working Families Annual Conference, which is hosted by EY and takes place today (23 May).