Home News & eventsBlogsThe Workflex Blog How Flexible Recruitment Could Transform the World of Work for Parents and Carers

How Flexible Recruitment Could Transform the World of Work for Parents and Carers

Published: 10 Oct 2019

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, outlines how flexible recruitment is key to transforming the world of work. 

National Work Life Week is a chance for employees and employers to have conversations about work-life balance.  At Working Families, it’s a time for us to reflect on how we can make the workplace a better place for millions of parents and carers across the UK. 

The Government is currently consulting on whether employers should be required to advertise job vacancies flexibly and publish their family-related leave and pay and flexible working policies. We are weighing in with recommendations that could transform the world of work for parents and carers. 

There are 13 million working parents in the UK [1], making up almost 40% of the UK’s workforce. But our often inflexible labour market, wedded to full-time work, isn’t working for them. Our research shows that while 86% of working parents would like to work flexibly, only just under half (49%) actually do [2]. This lack of flexibility leaves many parents feeling ‘trapped’ in jobs: nearly two-thirds (65%) of mothers and half of fathers agreed with the statement “I will stay in my job because I won’t be able to get the flexibility I have now elsewhere” [3].   

So, in our response to this consultation, Working Families is calling for a requirement on employers to advertise jobs flexibly by default, using a simple statement like Happy to Talk Flexible Workingunless there are good business reasons why they can’t. For us, it’s also crucial that employers specify the flexible working options available in each job ad; for example, any part-time or reduced hours options, whether those hours can be flexed, and whether any or all the work can be done from home. 

Having to think this through will help ensure the new requirement is a catalyst for better job design, guarding against employers pursuing a 35hoursaweekintheoffice modus operandi, albeit with a statement that the job can be done flexibly.   

But for us it goes much further. We know how much parents are working. Our research shows that nearly four in five parents (78%) – including those who work flexibly – are putting in extra hours at work every week [4]. These long hours are causing damage, intruding on the time families spend together, on parental relationships, and on wellbeing.  

Better job design means properly considering the tasks the role requires and whether these can be done in the hours allotted.  This should help create more ‘human-sized’ jobs and help unlock more better paid part-time jobs, often crucial to parents being able to work at their skill level and to finding the right balance between work and caring for their family. 

We want to sea labour market that allows more and more peoplenojust parentsto work in properly designed part-time and flexible jobsRequiring employers to advertise jobs flexibly will help move toward this. Too often, parents are seen as working ’differently’ and are disadvantaged in terms of career progression.  

Ultimately, we see the Government’s proposals kickstarting more widespread, embedded, and gender-equal part-time and flexible working; creating a level playing field for parents and carers at work. But the importance of better job design cannot ignored. Otherwise, the wider benefits of the Government’s proposals – more, better paid, part-time work for families on low incomes and parents better able to manage their work life balance, to name just twowilnot be seen. 


[1] Parents and non-parents by sex and age of youngest dependent child and different working arrangements, UK and regions, ONS 2018   

[2] 2019 Modern Families Index, Working Families & Bright Horizons  

[3] 2019 Modern Families Index, Working Families & Bright Horizons 

[42019 Modern Families Index, Working Families & Bright Horizons 








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