Recent research conducted by Pregnant Then Screwed in collaboration with Women In Data reveals a striking trend: mothers are twice as likely as fathers to request flexible working arrangements after parental leave.

The study, based on a survey of 35,800 parents, highlights significant gender disparities in the demand for flexible working. It found that mothers working full-time are almost three times more likely than full-time fathers to seek flexible arrangements. Moreover, 41% of single mothers request flexible working upon their return to work, indicating a substantial need for flexibility in managing childcare responsibilities.

Challenges in Flexible Working Requests

Despite the growing demand for flexibility, the research also uncovered challenges. Approximately 40% of mothers reported that their flexible working requests were rejected, underscoring existing barriers in accessing flexible work arrangements.

Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, noted, “Mothers often bear the brunt of unpaid caregiving duties, necessitating flexible working arrangements. However, the limited availability of flexible job opportunities hampers career progression and perpetuates the gender pay gap, which widens significantly after childbirth.”

Call for Enhanced Legislation

The Employment Rights (Flexible working) Act 2023 aims to address some of these challenges by enabling employees to request flexible working from their first day of employment. Yet, Pregnant Then Screwed argues that the legislation falls short. While it allows for two requests within a twelve-month period and sets a two-month deadline for employers to respond, the organisation believes more comprehensive measures are necessary.

Brearley emphasised, “While any progress is commendable, the current legislation still grants employers the right to reject flexible working requests. Moreover, the requirement for employees to secure a job offer before making such requests perpetuates systemic barriers. A more equitable parental leave system is imperative to address these entrenched disparities.”

As the debate on flexible working continues, organisations like Pregnant Then Screwed advocate for policies that promote inclusivity and support working parents in achieving a better work-life balance.