As a result, working mothers or employees who look after their parents are losing out on many of the benefits flexible working was supposed to bring, such as more family time, ongoing participation in the workforce and a lighter workload.
The findings of a Centre for Work and Life investigation coincide with a leading Australian businesswoman calling on corporate Australia to turn rhetoric into action to ensure women’s careers aren’t crippled by motherhood.
CWL senior researcher and report author Dr Natalie Skinner said an ageing population, cost pressures on business, and increased numbers of working mothers had brought the issue to a head.
“Even if people are working flexibly or working reduced hours, if their workload is unreasonably high they lose a lot of the benefits of those conditions or arrangements,” she said.
“It’s something which comes through strongly on our qualitative research. It is not uncommon for those in long part-time hours jobs (working three of four days) to find themselves being expected to manage a full-time workload.”
Avoiding a part-time job with full-time hours:
COMMUNICATE: Be clear where you are up to with work in progress, be clear about when you will be able to respond and when you are in the office.
PRIORITY SETTING: You must be able to identify what is most important to do and that includes the priority of your reasons for seeking part-time work.
STICK TO YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION: Resist the temptation to do other things, whether to help others out or because it is easier. Your hours are set by the tasks you have.
ASK FOR HELP EARLY: Do not wait until something is urgent or overdue and you feel compelled to work longer to resolve it. Get help early.
BE STRONG: Be strong when people say what a great job you are doing and offer you more hours.
TECHNOLOGY: Make good use of technology to stay in touch and communicate well with handovers, without letting yourself be tempted to do more work hours when at home.
Source: Broadspring Consulting director Pam Macdonald
The report found work-life policies will only be effective when they are accepted as the norm and not just a special consideration for working mothers.
A recent University of Queensland study also found it was common that “employees working in part-time positions would experience heightened work intensity, essentially being required to complete a full-time job in part-time hours”.
The report, based on 40 interviews with members of a national Australian employer, found it was common for part timers to be sidelined from promotion and training opportunities because they were seen as less committed than their full-time colleagues.
Dr Skinner said the culture of an organisation is the biggest determiner of whether or not parents with flexible working arrangements, for example, spent enough quality time with their family.
“The role of technology in the late hours and on weekends is huge,” she said.
“People have their laptops and smartphones they can use to keep in touch. But there is a concern about the quality of family and home time because of this.”
Senior businesswoman and mother Elizabeth Proust, who is the director of an ASX-listed company and the former managing director of ANZ, called on employers to get their act together to ensure women’s career progression isn’t stifled by caring responsibilities.
“It is for senior managers and boards to be serious about making available a range of part time and other flexible arrangements, whereby people are able to — at various stages of their careers — have flexible arrangements,” she said.
“It is a matter of companies translating the policies and the rhetoric into action.
“There is no doubt that in most cases part time is seen as a lesser role and I don’t think there is any doubt that women get sidelined when they take time off to have children. It is then harder for them to re-establish their careers.”
news.com.au 15 Feb 2014