Tasks, Not Time_1

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Tasks, Not Time_1

The ContextTransition to employment has traditionally been difficult for many women who have taken timeaway from the workplace to have children. Much has been written on the problems ofemployment and pay that face working mothers; this report examines factors which would easethe transition back to work and makes practical recommendations about how best to implementthem.This report focusses on women with young children, that is below school age, who are less likelyto be in employment than any other group (see Figure 1, below).Figure 1. Female Employment by Age of Youngest Dependent ChildUnder 522%35%5-1029%42%11-1516-1839%48%39%32%No dependent children 30% 38%Source: Office for National Statistics (2008): Labour Force SurveyEasing the process of women’s return to the workplace is critical for a number of reasons,including, but not limited, to:For SocietyWorking Full-TimeWorking Part-Time• Contributing to economic growth.Between £15 billion and £23 billion, or 1.3% to 2.0% of GDP, could be added to the economy byincreasing female employment and the proportion of women working in jobs traditionally doneby men 2 .• Helping to address an ageing society.The numbers of people of working age in comparison to the over 65s are steadily falling (seeFigure 2, below), leading to ever greater pressure on public services and pensions. Increasingthe proportion of women in employment, through removing some of the barriers facingmothers who wish to return to work, can help to ease some of this pressure.2Women & Work Commission (2006). Shaping a Fairer Future. London: Women & Work Commission.4


Source: LaValle et al, ibid.Many previous analyses of women and employment have focussed on barriers to employment,rather than looking at the issue from a different angle: how to make it easier for women to returnto work. The aim of this report is to make positive recommendations for policy makers andemployers to enable women to return to roles for which they are qualified and skilled, whichremunerate them appropriately and which they enjoy doing. While the key barriers inevitably needconsideration, our main focus will be on the factors which ease women’s return.Factors which encourage mothers to return to work 12 include:• Flexible working hours• Being able to work from home• Job satisfaction• Term time working (for mothers with older children)• An understanding employer• Cheaper childcareChildcare is a major factor influencing whether women returning to work, with typical costs nowover a third of average earnings 13 . 83% of British people believe that childcare can cost almost asmuch as the mother earns, compared to a European average of 71% 14 . Reforming childcare issomething that is well covered in previous literature. For this reason, and because serious reformis unlikely at a time when public finances are being squeezed to the maximum, recommendationson overcoming the financial barriers imposed by childcare are out of the scope of this report.Part-time working is common: 61% of working mothers with children under 5 choose to workpart-time 15 . This type of work, however, can come with a price. Women who find work with parttimehours frequently have to balance shorter hours with an unsatisfactory job. Jobs which offerpart-time hours are often low skilled and low paid, meaning that many women are working belowtheir skill level and for less pay - even pro rata - than they would have received had they not hadchildren 16 . According to a 2009 poll for the website WorkingMums, 88% of mothers are workingbelow their skill level, principally to get flexible work which allows them to balance work andfamily life 17 . The challenge of enabling part-time working which meets women’s skill and salaryexpectations is explored in detail later in this report.12E.g. WorkingMums (2009). WorkingMums Survey. London: WorkingMums.13Daycare Trust (2010). Ninth Annual Childcare Costs Survey. London: Daycare Trust.14European Commission (2010). Gender Equality in the EU in 2009. Brussels: European Commission.15Calculated from Office of National Statistics data (Labour Force Survey, 2008).16E.g. L. Grant, S. Yeandle & L. Buckner (2006). Working Below Potential: Women and part time work. Sheffield: Centre forSocial Inclusion, Sheffield Hallam University.17http://www.workingmums.co.uk/working-mums-magazine/hot-topics/633656/88-of-mums-are-working-below-theirskill-level.thtml7


FindingsLeaving my children and getting back into the working frame of mind is... one of the hardestthings I have done.I do think that women should not necessarily expect everything to be the same when goingback to work after having children. Your priorities change, you aren’t always prepared to givethe same sort of commitment that you may have given before, and if your child is ill or onholiday, you do usually expect your employer to accommodate you in sorting out your family.There has to be give and take on both sides.I am keen to return to work to prove to them that females can have both a family and acareer.150 mothers of young children were surveyed on their attitudes towards and experience ofreturning to work. This section explores the priorities for women in their return to work and thechallenges they face. It also looks at elements which may make the transition to the workplaceeasier.Reasons for ReturnWomen return to the workplace, in the majority of cases, principally for reasons of personalsatisfaction and finance. Career development is also important to just over half of women.Pressure from society and family is a smaller driver for women to return.Figure 4. Reasons for returning to workPersonal satisfactionFinancialPressure from partner/familyPressure from friendsPressure from societyCareer development6.0%0.7%7.3%50.7%81.3%81.3%Other 10.4%Other reasons for returning to work include:• Need for independence• Fear of not finding a similar position after a career break• Mental health• Being a positive role model• Wanting child to interact with other childrenConflicting pressures are clear in some of the responses, and social pressure can work both ways -in encouraging women to return to work, but also encouraging them to stay with their families.One mother commented:9


I thought it was for personal satisfaction but have found that [my job] is not as rewardingpersonally as it once was. [It] clearly helps financially but mainly so that I can keep the optionopen of having a career later when the children are older, so not strictly career development,more avoiding a fatal career break. Social pressure does exist and I feel heavy pressure not togo full-time from my parents and even working friends.A couple of respondents also mentioned wanting to get away from being a stay-at-home mother -a reason which is often taboo in discussions of working parents. I hate being at home and bored,said one respondent.Treatment on Return to WorkThe majority of mothers who have come back to employment feel that they were supported ontheir return (see Figure 5, below).Figure 5. Did you feel supported on your return to work?Yes69.8%No 30.2%A partner who splits the work at home can be an important factor in how women feel about theirreturn to work. One such respondent, who feels very supported by both work and partner, says:I’ve actually (having got over the tricky first couple of months) really come to love it. Being a working mumis exactly right for me. I must say that my partner and I split things incredibly equally - I know I would findit very very much more difficult, perhaps even impossible, if we did not have this arrangement. Anothersays: I find my employer is not at all sympathetic and at home still find myself doing all the jobs I donewhen I was not working.Flexibility seems to be key in how supported women feel upon their return to work. One womansays:My employer offers a great deal of family-flexible working (being the Government) so I havethe right to request flexible hours, part-time working, working from home, etc, though myrequest may only be granted if my job is suited to this kind of arrangement (which it is,fortunately, and my boss is very supportive).The other side of the flexibility coin is demonstrated by another’s story:Been hounded again to return to work sooner, and told there is no part-time hours allowed.Flexibility is non-existent. I was also passed up on promotion for not going back to worksooner. I challenged this and then got taken through a disciplinary for emails I’d sent beforemy maternity leave. I was given a final written warning.Of those who do not feel supported, reasons vary from wanting more support from familymembers to feeling marginalised in the workplace. One woman comments:I was a very experienced member of staff and had been well thought of. If anything was going- training/meetings/new work - I was usually first to be considered. Once back from Mat10


Leave I was stuck in a corner and forgotten about, even when I reverted to full time hours.‘My’ job was also given to someone else and I got the job no-one else wanted.Lack of understanding is mentioned repeatedly - for being a part-time worker, for the challenges ofjuggling childcare arrangements and fitting in with conventional working arrangements, for needingto care for children when they are unwell. Hours are also an issue. Part-time workers aresometimes expected to fit a full-time job into their time at work; full-time workers are sometimesexpected to work long days and at weekends.Easing the TransitionFlexible hours are mentioned overwhelmingly as the feature of employment that would have madewomen’s return to work easier (see Figure 6, below), followed closely by part-time work and theability to work from home.Figure 6. What would make (or would have made) it easier for you to return to work?Flexible hoursPart-time workAbility to work from homeBetter childcare provision95.9%89.9%88.6%76.1%More experienceBetter skills23.1%18.6%Greater availability of suitable jobs64.1%Greater understanding from management 77.2%The priority for most women is flexibility within work, over and above better childcare provision,greater availability of suitable jobs and personal attributes (better skills or more experience).Table 1. Priorities for Easing the Transition to WorkPriority Detail Average %1 Flexibility & management understanding 87.9%2 Better childcare 76.1%3 Suitable jobs 64.1%4 Personal attributes (skills & experience) 20.1%Some of the respondents discuss elements which eased their own transition, including a gradualreturn to the workplace: gradual return was key to my return and got me used to my old work and thewrench leaving them at nursery. Keeping in touch (KIT) days are also mentioned as important, alongwith other informal contact with work. More options to help employees to retain or regain theirprofessional skills can be helpful, perhaps through return to work courses.11


Job-Shares58% of respondents were broadly positive about the idea of job-share schemes.Figure 7. Broad Attitude to Job-Share SchemesPositiveNeutral25.0%57.5%Opinions about job-shares are explored in more detail in Job-Shares: A Partial Solution below.Financial ImplicationsBalancing the monetary benefit of returning to work with the cost of childcare is a challenge thatmany women face, with some choosing not to return as the monetary gain would not be sufficient.For some on low incomes, a return to work would actually cost money where childcare costs arehigher than their potential income. One woman says:Childcare costs are incredibly high. A nursery place is £1,200 a month full-time - imagine with 2 children,you’re talking about £28,800 a year net. That’s a big salary you need to cover these costs... How issomeone on low/medium income and no family to help supposed to return to work before school startsage 4? Just to put it into perspective, in Paris, full-time nursery is around 500 euros a month.Women on higher incomes also face challenges: Tax credits would be helpful but do not supportfamilies on higher incomes. With no tax credits and full nursery fees we are now a lot less well off than anysingle parent.Self Employment50% of women would consider starting their own business.Negative 17.4%Figure 8. Would you consider starting your own business?Yes49.7%No 50.3%Self employment can work well for the women who have done it: after having my first child, I left mypermanent job and set up as a self-employed freelance consultant so have a lot more flexibility than most.Challenges for Women Not in Work65% of mothers not currently in employment or on maternity leave intend to return to work, butthe barriers to doing so are far greater than for those who already have a job (see Figure 9,below).12


Figure 9. What would make (or would have made) it easier for you to return to work?Flexible hoursPart-time workAbility to work from homeBetter childcare provision95.2%94.9%100.0%88.8%88.6%95.7%87.2%92.3%87.0%74.1%77.1%90.9%More experienceBetter skills19.0%15.4%15.5%8.0%45.0%42.1%Greater availability of suitable jobs44.8%65.2%86.4%Greater understanding from management73.2%74.3%95.2%WorkingOn maternity leaveNot workingMost believe that the transition to the workplace could have been made easier in almost everyway. This is particularly stark in their belief that more experience (45% of non-working motherscompared to 19% of working mothers), better skills (42% compared to 16%) and a greateravailability of suitable jobs (86% compared to 65%) would have made it easier for them to returnto work.13


AnalysisThe findings show that the key priority for women returning to the workplace is the availability offlexible and part-time hours. This, however, presents a long-term penalty for women. The moveinto part-time work often means a reduction in responsibilities and pay, with the majority of parttimework existing in lower paid, lower skilled sectors 21 (see Occupational Downgrading,below).Figure 10. Gross Hourly PayFull-timePart-time£11.84£10.33£13.41£16.03MenWomenSource: Office for National Statistics (2009): Annual Survey of Hours and EarningsThis section considers how to develop part-time, flexible working options which work for bothwomen returners and employers.Occupational Downgrading‘Occupational downgrading’ occurs when women take jobs below their skill level in order to workpart-time, resulting in lower paid jobs. It affects up to 29% of women from professional andcorporate management jobs, and up to 40% of those in intermediate-level jobs 22 . It is also agrowing problem, with current generations of women more likely to experience occupationaldowngrading than earlier ones 23 . Career paths in downgraded jobs are often restricted, with fewopportunities for training and promotion 24 . This is frequently compounded by a long-term loss ofconfidence by women in their skills and abilities 25 .Downgrading was evident in the survey responses from this study. Unfortunately I have not hadenough to do so I feel that my skillsets and time has not been utilised, said one woman. Said another, Iwas a very experienced member of staff and had been well thought of. If anything was going - training,meetings, new work - I was usually first to be considered. Once back from maternity leave I was stuck in a21Woodroffe, J. (2009). Op cit.22Connolly, M. & M. Gregory (2008). The Part-Time Pay Penalty: Earnings Trajectories of British Women. OxfordEconomic Papers 1-22.23Dex, S., K. Ward & H. Joshi (2008). Changes in Women’s Occupations and Occupational Mobility over 25 Years. In J.Scott, S. Dex & H. Joshi (eds.). Women and Employment: Changing Lives and New Challenges. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.24Thornley, C. (2007). Working Part-Time for the State: Gender, Class and the Public Sector Pay Gap. Gender, Work andOrganisation 14(5): 454-475.25Grant et al. (2005). Op cit.14


corner and forgotten about. A further respondent said, I put up with a fairly rubbishy salary for theperks - flexible hours and no boss breathing down my neck.One mooted solution to the problem of occupational downgrading is to improve the quality ofpart-time work. If part-time work were more widely available for higher paid, higher skilled jobs,many women would not be forced to downgrade 26 . Quality, however, does not need to be limitedto skills and pay; it also incorporates elements such as access to training and having equalresponsibility to those in similar positions working full-time. One recent study on quality part-timework suggests that the following elements are central 27 :• Opportunities to switch between part-time and full-time work• Retention of skill levels and experience when moving to part-time work• Equal access to training, development and promotion• Improved internal communication and consultation• Equal job content (assigned tasks) as for full-time workers, on a pro-rata basis• Reduced workload• Improved perceived commitment, with some managers viewing part-time workers as lesscommitted or motivated than full-time workersQuality part-time work should be available in all sectors; we have focussed on higher-level sectorsbecause of the implications for the pay gap, but women in lower-level jobs should not be excludedfrom the benefits that quality part-time work can offer.Developing Quality Part-Time WorkQuality part-time work is linked to ‘good work’, which the Work Foundation defines as a vision forthe future of the employment relationship that seeks to balance the interests of individuals, employers andsociety in order to deliver performance, engagement and fairness 28 . It is made up of secure, interestingjobs, with choice, flexibility and control over the pace and timing of work and the workingenvironment, a say in the critical decisions which affect employees’ futures, and an appropriatebalance between effort and reward.Literature on quality part-time work is limited. There has been very little written on practicalideas to increase it, beyond suggestions to advertise its benefits to employers. These benefitsinclude - looking at the wider definition of ‘good jobs’, which are similar in nature to quality parttimework - higher labour productivity, a healthier working age population, higher workforcestability and more engaged and committed employees 29 .There are many barriers among employers to instigating quality part-time work. Looking at thebroader definition of good jobs, for example, the Work Foundation lists numerous barriers,including a belief that high turnover of staff makes it difficult to develop staff in their jobs, a lack ofmanagement skills and a belief that there is not time for management to think about good jobs 30 .26Lyonette, C., B. Baldauf & H. Behle (2010). ‘Quality’ part-time work: a review of the evidence. Warwick: Institute forEmployment Research & London: Government Equalities Office.27Lyonette et al. (2010). Op cit.28http://www.theworkfoundation.com/research/goodworkcomm/whatisgoodwork.aspx29Constable, S., D. Coats, S. Bevan & M. Mahdon (2009). Good Jobs. London: The Work Foundation.30Constable et al. (2009). Op cit.15


Clearly these barriers need to be overcome if the majority of employers are to consider ways toinstigate quality part-time work. Initial recommendations from the Work Foundation includeengaging accountancy bodies such as ICAS and ACCA in the good jobs agenda, as accountants areoften a source of general advice and support for small organisations; publicising a series of bestpractice case studies; and encouraging business networking around good jobs, perhaps throughexisting business channels such as BusinessLink. Getting employers to reconsider the nature ofwork is a long-term challenge and an area which needs considerable future research.Limited recommendations exist on how to develop quality part-time work for organisations whichhave overcome or do not perceive these barriers. The Institute for Employment Research (IER),for example, lists the following measures 31 :• An evaluation of the line manager’s role in granting requests for part-time working• The mainstreaming of part-time work within organisations (incorporating it within existingorganisational structures)• The application of the business case for increasing part-time work• An increase in senior role models working part-time, especially menIt is difficult to see, however, how these recommendations would work in practice, probablybecause the literature on quality part-time work is in such early stages. An employer, for example,might struggle to see how part-time work could be incorporated within existing organisationalstructures without specific recommendations on how to do this.On the final bullet point above, the IER says: although part-time work is predominantly undertaken bywomen, usually for childcare and caring purposes, an increase in the numbers of (senior) men workingreduced hours will help to drive the message home to organisations that part-time work can be good foremployees, as well as good for business. While we agree with the latter sentiment, organisationscannot force more men to take part-time roles.What is needed, instead, is the availability of part-time, quality work, which will encourage allemployees - of both genders - to work part-time if it is their preferred way of working. It is hopedthat this would have a snowball effect: the availability of such work would allow more people towork part-time, which would create more role models, which would improve the reputation andavailability of quality, part-time work.Job-Shares: A Partial SolutionJob-shares are one way of enabling higher paid, higher skilled work to be split into part-timeworking. According to BusinessLink, the benefits of job-sharing to employers include 32 :• The retention of valued workers• A wider range of skills, experience, views and ideas• Increased flexibility to meet peaks in demand• Greater continuity when one worker is sick or on holiday• A wider pool from which to recruit• Increased commitment and loyalty• A potential reduction in absenteeism, sickness and stress31Lyonette et al. (2010). Op cit.32http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/detail?type=RESOURCES&itemId=107441200416


Women surveyed in this study were generally positive about the idea of job-shares. The employeesbenefit from the flexibility and the employers benefit because they get more than 100% as people whowork part-time always do more than 50% of the work, said one respondent. Another stated, I think[job-share schemes] can be an extremely effective means of enabling mothers to work and fororganisations to benefit from the skills and knowledge of two people for the price of one. Job-shares canovercome some of the problems of part-time working, with one respondent saying, at least with ajob-share you are probably not being asked to do too much more than you would in a normal job, whereasthose in part-time work seem to try and have to fit 5 days work into 3. Job-shares are also not lookeddown on in the same way as part-timers seem to be.Job-shares do not always work well in practice, however. Only 25% of mothers who have access tojob-share schemes make use of them 33 . While the majority of women surveyed in this study werepositive about the idea of job-share schemes, many potential downsides were identified:• Communication between job-sharers: The handover is often the missing piece of the jigsaw in myopinion and is important for workers and employers.• Compatibility of job-sharers: It can be tricky to try and find a willing partner and someone who isat the same level and has the same skills and experience. Relationship between job-sharers: Youhave to totally trust the person you job-share with and have to have a very good relationship withthem.• Additional work for colleagues: Two people shared a job on a 2 and a half days basis, but it wasnot easy for us to work with them. We had always to share twice the information with them.• Employer attitude: I think that there is still a prevailing feeling that senior level jobs can’t beshared. Fear of additional costs was also cited as a reason why employers might not be keenon job-shares.• Management of job-sharers: If you end up in a situation where the two job-sharing are played offagainst one another, or not managed properly, then I foresee big problems.• Management of other people: My management role would... be very difficult to keep on top of withtwo people involved.• Career development: I can’t quite work out how you move forward in your career when two peopleare essentially tied together (somewhat like a three legged race!).Jobs which can be broken down easily into discrete tasks were identified as being more suitable forjob-shares. I think that job-shares work best in roles where the tasks largely begin and end on the sameday, e.g. receptionist, hairdresser, GP, physiotherapist, or [where] the role can be broken down into discretechunks or projects. If the task depends on ongoing follow-up or relationships with customers/clients, then itcan be difficult to handle this between two people.Communication can be improved by having job overlap, where both job-sharers are in the office atthe same time for some of the working week. The most common framework for job-sharing is tosplit the role equally into 2.5 days 34 ; if there is no overlap, however, job-sharers do not have anopportunity to share information face-to-face. Some employers have tried to address this byemploying each job-sharer for 3 days a week with one day’s overlap, but this entails additional costsdue to a 20% increase in salary and benefits (6 days a week in total, rather than 5). Job-sharerssometimes work simultaneously for 2 or 3 days a week, which works well from a communications33La Valle, I., E. Clery & M.C. Huerta (2008). Maternity Rights and Mothers’ Employment Decisions. London: Department ofWork & Pensions & National Centre for Social Research.34Equality & Human Rights Commission, cited in Ridgley, C., J. Scott & A. Hunt (2005). Flexible Employment in HigherEducation: Job Share, A Report. Stoke-on-Trent: Staffordshire University/FEO.17


perspective but less well for customers 35 . We therefore recommend that where a role is splitequally, the job-sharers spend half a day on site together, with two days each at workindependently. This means only be half a day where no-one covers the role, and employer costsare not increased.Improving the compatibility of job-sharers is an awkward challenge, as it relies on two people withsimilar skills and experience wanting to work part-time and wanting the same job. There are twopossible approaches to this. The first is changing recruitment practices to make it easier forpotential job-sharers to find each other, or for employers to find one job-share candidate to matchemployees who want to reduce their hours. The civil service, for example, provides a job-sharenotice board (see Employer Good Practice, below). The second approach is for employers todivide job-share responsibilities by task rather than time: each job-sharer is given discrete tasks forwhich they hold ultimate responsibility, allowing people with different skills and attributes to bematched for the same job.In a traditional job-share model, where the role is split into two lots of 2.5 days and job-sharers donot work together on site, colleagues are very often likely to have to share information twice.These information costs can be reduced by improved communication, for example by having anoverlap of half a day - as outlined above - to ensure that job-sharers inform each other of relevantfacts without colleagues having to pick up any slack. A more time efficient solution would be toreturn to the idea of allocating responsibilities by task rather than time, which would reduce theamount of information that needs to be passed between job-sharers.Some employers may fear increased costs from job-share schemes, believing that they will need topay extra in salary, benefits and national insurance costs. Job-sharers, however, generally split salaryand benefits equally if they are each working a 2.5 day week, and employer national insurancecontributions are actually lower for two part-time employees than for one full-time one. The costimplications of job-shares need better dissemination in order to allay employers’ fears. Otherprevalent employer attitudes, such as the idea that senior level jobs cannot be shared, are probablyharder to shift. This is only likely to change with time if job-shares increase in prevalence andpeople see that they can work at all levels.Line management is a key issue, both of the job-sharers themselves and, where appropriate, thepeople whom they manage. Managers of job-sharers need training, advice and support to ensurethat the job-share works to its best possible effect. One way of removing the impact of split linemanagement responsibilities on people whom job-sharers manage is, again, to apportionresponsibility by task. In this way, one job-sharer would have complete line managementresponsibility for one or more individuals, and the other job-sharer for different individuals. Peoplewhom they are managing could approach the other job-sharer for advice and support on dayswhen their own line manager was not working, but ultimate responsibility would lie with oneperson.The only long-term solution to enable proper career development of job-sharers is to operate abusiness culture in which flexible working is the norm, and job-sharers can move between roleswithout being tied to the person with whom they are job-sharing. This type of flexible culturecould be facilitated by apportioning responsibility according to tasks, as people could progressthroughout the organisation by moving onto more complex tasks rather than being fixed (andtherefore limited by the skills and abilities of their job-sharer) to the traditional notion of a job.35Ridgley, C., J. Scott & A. Hunt (2005). Op Cit.18


Employer Good Practice: Civil Service Job-Share BoardThe civil service set up an online job-share notice board in 2009, which helps civil servants find a potential job-sharepartner. It also provides advice and guidance on job-sharing for individuals and managers. Advice for successful jobsharinggiven at its launch included:• Having the right culture and visible support• Good team working• Having a similar outlook and leadership style• Co-coaching• Communication and commitment• FlexibilityOther flexible working options offered to civil servants include flexi-time and part-time working, compressed hours,staggered hours, term-time working and remote access.Source: www.civilservice.gov.ukIt is apparent that there are a number of ways in which the traditional job-share model could beimproved, which might help to increase the number of organisations which offer it and its uptakeamong women returners to work.Redefining Work: An Ultimate SolutionThe limitation of job-sharing is principally in its allocation of time, as many part-timers want towork more than half-time 36 . It is also important to keep long-term options flexible, as womenworking part-time often want to increase their hours as their children grow older 37 . An ultimatesolution, and one to which the previous section on job-shares made reference, is for employers tochange the way that the majority of work is allocated.Most jobs are currently established on the basis of time. A full-time role as a project manager, forexample, might have a number of necessary business tasks allocated to it, which are then expandedor contracted to fulfil the requirements of what people understand as a job - that is, a role whichtakes place across a 5 day working week. The working week is what drives the definition of therole, rather than the tasks needed for the business to be effective.The business case for changing to allocation of roles on the basis of tasks rather than time is clear.Individuals have different requirements for how much they want to work; mothers of youngchildren, as we have seen, generally want to work part-time. Flexible allocation of tasks wouldenable employers to satisfy individual preferences on work patterns, which would in turn increasestaff commitment and productivity 38 . It would also enable more efficient use of human resources;rather than tasks expanding or contracting to fill the traditional notion of a 5 day working week,only the tasks necessary to run a business effectively would be performed - no more, and no less.Changing the nature of work in this way would require a radical attitude shift and is unlikely to beviable in the short-term. Business structures and recruitment practices would need to changefundamentally. Changing the way we think about work should therefore be a long-term policygoal. In the short-term, we believe that a viable proposition is to change the structure of jobsharesin the ways outlined above and to make job-shares more widely available. If this is achieved,we should start to see a shift towards a widespread working culture which enables individuals to36E.g. Bosch, G. (1999). Working Time and Work Organisation: Recent Trends in Working Time. Journal of HumanResource Costing & Accounting 4(2): 11-26.37See Figure 1, page 4.38E.g. Shepard III, E. & T. Kruse. Flexible Work Hours and Productivity: Some Evidence from the PharmaceuticalIndustry. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society 35(1): 123-139.19


work in ways which suit their lifestyle at the same time as using their skills and experience, andemployers to work more effectively towards their business goals through better use of theirhuman capital.Current Provision and Future OpportunitiesWhile the literature on improving the quality of part-time work is limited, several projects areattempting to make in-roads and to improve working practices. The Equalities and Human RightsCommission’s Working Better Initiative aims to explore how we can match the aspirations ofemployees with the needs of employers in ways that meet both the economic and individual challenges ofmodern Britain 39 . The Work Foundation’s Good Work Commission examines the major challengesof work in the 21st century and attempts to redefine the notion of good work - work that is rewardingfor business, society and individuals 40 . Quality part-time work is a growing concern of Government,with a fund announced for exemplar employers in 2007 and research commissioned by theGovernment Equalities Office.The Government has recently welcomed some recommendations of the Family Friendly Task Force41, which included:1. A one stop portal for employers, perhaps through BusinessLink, which should include orenhance its information on:a. The business benefits of flexible working, including using case studies covering a variety ofdifferent size, sector and types of employers, demonstrating how these practices can beimplemented.b. Practical hints and tips, covering job design, recruitment and management.2. Support for employers without dedicated HR function on designing and managing flexible work,for example through an online forum on the BusinessLink website which allows businesses topost questions, advice and comments on flexible working practices.3. Encouraging larger employers to review their practices.It remains to be seen how the outcome of the 2010 General Election will affect thesecommitments.Several organisations aim to match women with flexible employment. Women Like Us, 42 forexample, is a social enterprise which recruits women into part-time jobs and helps employers todesign part-time jobs that benefit their business. They recruit the majority of women whom theyplace into employment at the school gates; the idea for the enterprise stemmed from countlessconversations that the founders overheard wondering how to find flexible employment.WorkingMums 43 is an online recruitment consultancy aiming to recruit women into flexibleemployment, provide women with self-employment opportunities, and also to offer advice, newsand networking. Both organisations work with employers to help them to develop flexibleworking opportunities, and are well-placed to build new ideas about working practices intomainstream business thinking.39http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/fairer-britain/working-better/40http://www.theworkfoundation.com/research/goodworkcomm.aspx41Department for Work & Pensions (2010). Flexibility for the Future: The Government’s Response to the Recommendations ofthe Family Friendly Working Hours Taskforce. London: Department of Work & Pensions.42www.womenlikeus.org.uk43www.workingmums.co.uk20


This study has focussed on the mothers of young children, but the implications for flexible workingpractices are likely to be just as important in the long-term to fathers, who are increasingly beingdrawn towards part-time and flexible working 44 . Finding models which work for all parents, andindeed for all groups who would benefit from flexible working patterns, is likely to increase theavailability of quality part-time work, as increasing prevalence and growing numbers of role modelsreduce the stigma which is often attached to ‘part-timers’.The nature of work is changing, with the ownership of human capital, relative to financial orindustrial capital, becoming more important 45 . This is likely to make it increasingly important toemployers to make the most of employees’ skills and experience, which, as we have seen, can beenabled through flexible working practices. Changing our understanding of work to employmentby tasks rather than employment by hours worked is therefore timely.44Equality and Human Rights Commission. Working Better: Fathers, Family and Work - Contemporary Perspectives. ResearchSummary 41. London: EHRC.45Gershuny, J. (2005). What Do We Do in Post-Industrial Society? The Nature of Work and Leisure Time in the 21stCentury. Working Papers of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, Paper 2005-7. Colchester: University of Essex.21


Conclusion & RecommendationsThe vast majority of mothers returning to the workplace want flexibility and part-time work. Thelack of this flexibility in the majority of high-level jobs has, in large part, contributed to the genderpay gap. It also means that a large proportion of women’s skills and experience are not being usedeffectively in the workplace. Increasing the availability of better quality part-time work is vital.A significant rethink about the nature of work is needed. There is a strong business case, as well asa social case, for changing the way that work is structured from the traditional notion of theworking week to a more flexible structure based on the tasks needed to do a job.This shift is not likely to happen in the short-term as it is so fundamental. A shorter-term solutionwould be to improve job-share schemes so that they work both for the employer and theemployee. The availability and take-up of job-share schemes is relatively low; it is hoped, that byimproving them in the following ways, they could be a key mechanism to enable better quality parttimejobs for working mothers.Improving Job-Share Schemes: Recommendations• Making job-share schemes run more smoothly.The vast majority of job-share schemes could be improved by allocating responsibilitiesaccording to tasks rather than time, so that each job-sharer has discrete tasks for which theyhave ultimate responsibility. This would help individuals to have greater responsibility,information costs to be reduced and businesses to run more effectively.• Improving the compatibility of job-sharers.Change recruitment practices to make it easier for job-sharers to find each other, or foremployers to find one job-share candidate to match employees who want to reduce theirhours. This could be achieved via a national (or, for large employers, business-specific) job-sharenotice board.• Reducing information costs.This can be achieved via improved communication, for example having an overlap between jobsharersof half a day a week. It can also be achieved by changing the allocation of responsibilitiesaccording to tasks, rather than time.• Improving line management.Managers of job-sharers need training, advice and support to ensure that the job-share worksto its best possible effect. For job-sharers who have line management responsibilitiesthemselves, the impact on the people they manage can be reduced by giving each job-sharercomplete line management responsibility for one or more individuals. People whom theymanage can approach the other job-sharer for advice and support on days when their own linemanager is not working, but the ultimate responsibility lies with one person.• Facilitating proper career development of job-sharersOperate a business culture in which flexible working is the norm, and job-sharers can movebetween roles without being tied to the person with whom they are job-sharing.22


Other RecommendationsFor Employers:• Improve the availability of flexible working for all employees, and in particular flexible hours,part-time work and the ability to work from home.• Have reasonable expectations, for example not expecting a part-time worker to carry out thework of somebody working full-time.• Develop employment practices which contribute towards ‘good quality’ work, such as givingindividuals greater choice and control in their work, rather than letting all key decisions about ajob come from management.For Policy Makers:• Use existing structures such as BusinessLink to inform employers about (a) job-share schemesand (b) the potential benefits of allocating work according to tasks and not time.• Consider what policy levers could be used to encourage employers to restructure jobsaccording to tasks and not time.Further ResearchThe literature on high quality part-time work is in an early stage, and needs developing. There is akey question for economists here: if, as it appears, high quality part-time work is beneficial foremployers, why is it not more widely available? The answer is likely to lie in the prevalence ofexisting institutional structures and cultural history, but it needs further research. Research is alsoneeded into the mechanisms and levers that might encourage employers to change theirunderstanding of work.This report has focused on recasting employment for working mothers, but working fathers mustnot be ignored - in fact, improving the availability of flexible work for working fathers could alsomake balancing work and childcare responsibilities easier for many working mothers. Take-up offlexible working practices among working fathers is low, but if flexible work becomes the normmore widely - if all employees have it as a fundamental right - it may start to lose some of thestigma that is currently attached to it.Increasing the availability of flexible working for all employees, and its likely implications, istherefore an important area for further research.23


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