All workers should be able to lean on family-friendly work arrangements. They allow people to manage their responsibilities both at work and at home. However, workers have varying levels of access to these kinds of options around the world.
Labor market expert Dr. Heejung Chung of the University of Kent set out to study the availability of two types of family-friendly work arrangements: flextime and taking time off for personal reasons. She used data from the European Conditions Survey of 2015 to examine the availability of these flexible arrangements across 30 European countries. The study, entitled Dualization and the access to occupational family-friendly working-time arrangements across Europe, found some significant differences in the availability of family-friendly options.
Workers’ access to flexible arrangements varies widely
This analysis focused primarily on a couple of different types of flexible work options: flextime and personal time. Dr. Chung looked specifically at the accessibility of these options for female workers with care responsibilities. She did this because they’re the workers who have the most to gain, or lose, as a result of the availability of these arrangements.
The results of the analysis found considerable variations in the availability of these flexible options. Lower-skilled workers, and workers without permanent contracts, were found to be much less likely to have access to these options than contracted or highly-skilled workers.
Surprisingly, researchers found no significant difference between workers with open-ended contracts and those with only temporary contracts, in terms of the availability of flexible options.
Chung also noted large variations by country in women’s access to these kinds of arrangements. In general, there seemed to be greater access in Northern European countries and less in Eastern and Southern European countries. However, in the countries with the best family-friendly arrangements, Chung also found the biggest differences in access to these options.
When Do Employers provide flexibility?
Workers are more vulnerable when they’re less skilled as they’re viewed as being more easily replaceable. The same is true when workers are employed without a contract. This research shows that employers respond to these differences. They’re most likely to provide flexible options when they have a vested interest in doing so.
Until family-friendly arrangements are mandated and enforced via legislation, employers will most likely continue to make choices that best serve themselves and their most highly skilled workers. Too often, these kinds of practices leave the women who need flexibility the most without it.
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