Millennial parents are struggling to maintain work and family commitments, according to the 2016 Modern Families Index.
The Index, published by charity Working Families and Bright Horizons, found that 78% of millennial parents (those aged 16-35) work full time. Millennial fathers are also increasingly involved with their families – 69% work flexibly, compared with 54% aged 36-45 and 52% aged 45+.
However, there is a cost for millennial parents, who are twice as likely to feel burnout – 42% said they felt burnt out most or all of time, compared with 22% of 36-45 year olds and 17% of those over 45.
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said younger parents are more likely to share care than the generations before them but working life hasn’t caught up. “Long and inflexible hours remain the norm with many parents telling us they work up to ten extra hours a week. If we want children to have the time with parents that they need, and for parents to give their best at work, employers need to tackle unrealistic and unmanageable workloads. Otherwise we’re short-changing families and we’re short-changing the economy,” she said.
Millennials are the most likely group to say they would like to downshift and the most willing to take a pay cut to find a better work-life balance: 38% of millennial parents would consider a pay-cut, compared to 28% overall. They are less interested in career progression that means working long hours and missing out on family life.
The index said millennial fathers continue to feel the most resentful towards their employers and are least comfortable asking employers for working time limits. More than half of millennial fathers (58%) would not feel confident asking their employer about reducing their hours, working remotely or placing boundaries on responding to calls or emails. It found 42% of millennial fathers feel resentful towards their employers, compared to 32% overall.
Commenting on the research, chief executive of the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion Denise Keating said it is a clear indication that business cultures are not keeping up with the rapidly changing social expectations of fatherhood.
“Modern fathers want to play a part in bringing up their children and seeing them for a couple of hours after work is no longer enough. Almost 50% of young fathers have taken a sick day in order to achieve work-life balance, demonstrating that there is a clear need for flexible working policies that actually work in practice,” she said.
“However, the masculine nature of the majority of organisational cultures dictates that flexible working arrangements are a sign of low commitment and weakness, which prevents young fathers from utilising flexible working arrangements. In the same way that working mother’s often feel that working flexibly creates challenges to their career development, without flexible working role models in business employers will struggle to recruit and retain working fathers and mothers.”
Denise Priest, director of employer and strategic partnerships at Bright Horizons, agreed: “Millennials are doings things differently at work and at home, and have a strong desire to be involved with their children and families – this is the new generation of parents who are rebooting traditional working and caring patterns, but also challenging embedded notions of engagement and loyalty in the workplace. However, these increased expectations continue to bump up against working commitments, leading to stress and in some cases burnout.”
Overall, a third of all parents (29%) reported being burnt out often or all the time and 46% said working life was becoming increasingly stressful. More than a third (35%) felt that work negatively impacted their family life. Crucially for employers, 35% of parents said they take annual leave to cope and 28% would take sick leave to cope.
The report found evidence that people on higher incomes are more likely to work flexibly: nearly 80% of those earning between £50,000 and £70,000 reporting they are able to access flexible working. Only 50% of those earning less than £30,000 did.
The study is based on interviews with 1,000 people across the United Kingdom, covering a balanced spread of working patterns, age ranges and income bands.
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