The majority of Britons working part-time believe it is damaging their career prospects, with many having “traded down” their skill level and accepting less pay just to work flexibly, research shows.
By Louisa Peacock 08 Jul 2013
Three quarters of professionals from accountants to IT staff who work part-time say they feel “trapped” in their jobs, with little hope of progressing up or out of that role without having to surrender their hard fought-for flexibility, the study found.
Eight in 10 part-timers said flexible hours were crucial to making their life work, with many – often women – trying to juggle the demands of childcare with work life. But two fifths say that in order to work flexibly, they have “traded down” their careers by taking jobs that are beneath their skills and full-time equivalent pay level, the survey of 1,000 part-time professionals revealed.
A number of senior executives in Britain work part-time, including Katie Bickerstaffe, chief executive of Dixons UK & Ireland, who works four days a week and Belinda Earl, style director at Marks & Spencer who works up to three days a week.
But despite the increasing trend towards flexible working – official statistics show one in four Britons now work part-time – many part-timers feel they have had to sacrifice their career prospects to get there, suggesting there is a long way to go before decent flexible working becomes a reality.
The study by the Timewise Foundation, which runs a jobs site dedicated solely to part-time workers, serves as a warning to the Government that if it wants to help get more women return to work after childcare, part-time work must not be seen as a low-paid, “menial” career option.
Women’s minister Maria Miller last month said flexible working is essential to help women back to work and boost the economy.
Karen Mattison, co-founder of the Timewise Foundation, said: “Work in the UK is undergoing a fundamental shift. More than a quarter of UK workers are now part time or flexible, with most needing to fit their careers with something else in life. Yet millions are hitting a wall at key points in their careers, when they want to progress or move to a new role. Doing so, without losing their flexibility, presents a real challenge: leaving many feeling trapped in their current jobs.
“Britain’s part time workers need to know that there are forward thinking businesses out there, that do offer a future where flexibility is no inhibitor to success.”
Other figures from the survey show three in four part-time workers have not been promoted once since working flexibly, with more than a fifth saying they wouldn’t even expect to be. Six in 10 think promotion could be possible, but only if they increased their hours.
Last year, Timewise revealed a “power list” of 50 senior professionals working part-time in Britain. The Foundation will be relaunching the list this year and is calling on companies to nominate their most senior part-time workers to join it, in an attempt to spread the word that you can be senior and work part-time.
Steve Varley, chairman and UK & Ireland managing partner of Ernst & Young, who is on the judging panel for the power part-time list, said: “It is time that businesses stopped noticing work hours, measuring productivity in presenteeism, and instead focused on outputs. In a fast paced global economy, when business large and small are working with clients and colleagues across borders in different time zones, flexible working can provide a real competitive advantage.”