Home News & eventsNews Despite progress made in pandemic, many parents and carers still lack access to flexible working 

Despite progress made in pandemic, many parents and carers still lack access to flexible working 

Published: 17 May 2022

a young black family with two children sit and stand at a table together

Working Families Index 2022

A new report from work-life balance charity Working Families and professional coaching organisation Talking Talent has revealed inequalities around who can access flexible working.  

Based on a survey of 2,806 parents and carers, the Working Families Index  2022 finds that there has been an overall increase in the number of parents and carers working flexibly in the UK: 70% of respondents reported working flexibly compared to just 55% in 2019. However, the report also found that higher earners (over £60k) and those in knowledge-based industries are most likely to be working flexibly, leaving many parents and carers on lower incomes and in ‘place-based’ roles behind.   

The Index includes a ranking table of the most and least flexible sectors as reported by the parents and carers surveyed: 

Most flexible (over 80% of respondents in these sectors reported working flexibly): 

  1. Marketing advertising and PR 
  2. Business consulting and management 
  3. Not for profit and charity work 
  4. Creative arts and design 
  5. Accountancy, banking and finance 

Least flexible (less than 65% of respondents in these sectors reported working flexibly): 

  1. Healthcare 
  2. Retail 
  3. Teacher training and education 
  4. Engineering and manufacturing 
  5. Transport and logistics 

The five industries with the least flexibility are clearly those in which roles are less suited to homeworking. Three of them (healthcare, retail, and teacher training and education) overwhelmingly employ women, disproportionately affecting women’s access to flexible work. 

Looking at workplace culture, the Index has found that employers who support family life can expect more loyalty from the parents and carers on their staff. Respondents who felt confident their family responsibilities wouldn’t affect how fairly they were treated were twice as likely to see themselves staying in their role for the next two years compared with those who didn’t feel this way. 

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said:

“The Working Families Index emphasises that now more than ever, we need to ensure that flexible working is accessible to all. It’s vital to enabling working parents and carers to access and stay in employment, which is a matter of survival amidst the current cost-of-living crisis.   

“At the moment we are seeing huge growth in home and hybrid working. While we can celebrate this, it’s leaving a lot of working parents and carers behind in sectors where home and hybrid options are less possible. Millions of these are our frontline workers, people who kept vital services going throughout the pandemic. Flexible working should not just be the preserve of those who work at a desk—and working from home is just one of many types of flexible working. We encourage employers in every sector to take a look at all of the ways in which they can make flexible working possible. If employers get this right, they will reap the benefits of increased loyalty and retention.”  

Lucinda Quigley, Head of Working Parents at Talking Talent, who have partnered with Working Families to produce the 2022 Index, said,

For many working parents flexibility isn’t just a nice to have, it’s a crucial part of being able to have both the home life and career they want for themselves. This includes having quality time with their family, managing increasing childcare costs and having a fulfilling professional experience. 

“Any industries or organisations not offering flexible working options could find their high-talent individuals jumping ship in favour of more forward-thinking firms – which will be disastrous for long-term company success and essential industries. Now is the time for bold and honest conversations, and businesses must be ready to listen and enable real change.”

Read the Working Families Index 2022


About Talking Talent 

Talking Talent partners with clients to build inclusive cultures that drive belonging, engagement and performance. For over 15 years it has been providing some of the world’s most successful organisations with transformational coaching and development programmes that encourage everyone, and every business to perform at its best. Its global delivery and deep local expertise are central to that. Talking Talent believes that coaching-led approaches to inclusion, purpose and belonging have the biggest impact on performance. Its deep, systemic approach to inclusion creates real behavioural change that lasts. Whether it is enhancing leadership capabilities, facilitating safe dialogue, guiding talent through career-life transitions, or delivering leadership programmes for under-represented groups, its coaching solutions inspire inclusive cultures so that people and business can thrive.