Workplace flexibility: An actual option for men or just hot air? | Women's Agenda

Workplace flexibility: An actual option for men or just hot air?

The option to work ‘flexibly’ is great, until you realize it’s just a ploy to rip you off and make you feel better about constantly checking your email.

And so when I see stories of Dads working flexibly in high-profile positions, as I did over the weekend in line with Father’s Day, I’m not completely convinced.

The problem is that the stats are still well against Dads when it comes to flexible or part time to care for children at home.

While according to ABS data released on Friday there has been some increase in Dads changing their work patterns to be more involved at home, the increase frankly doesn’t match all the talk that’s going on in big corporates about the move to flexible work.

Around 30% of working Dads now take advantage of flexible work options compared with 16% back in 1996. A great increase, but just one third of Dads? It seems rather low, especially when you consider the fact the definition of “working flexibly” can be rather wide. Last week I heard a father in an accounting firm describe his flexible arrangements as being able to leave work at 5:15pm on the dot to collect his toddlers from daycare, only to log back on for two to three hours once they had gone to bed.

Over the weekend, the Australian Financial Review offered a number of examples of the increasing number of “part-time power dads”, including Holden managing director Mark Bernard who comes into work late after dropping his kids off at school, and Lion chief executive of food and beverage Stuart Irvine, who leaves work early to collect his kids. I’m not sure how this makes them “part time power dads”, but it’s good to hear how they’re maintaining high profile leadership positions with the school run. 

Meanwhile, the ABS data also found around 14% of dads are now working from home to care for their children, up from 7% in 1996. Yet another slight increase that just doesn’t seem good enough when you consider how much technology has transformed how and where we can work.

Comparing employment patterns between mums and dads shows just how well set gender roles still are. The data revealed 90% of dads with kids under 15 are employed, compared with 65% of mum. Just under 92% of those Dads work full time, compared with 42% of employed mums.

And the number of hours worked “full-time” also varies significantly between genders. According to ABS:  

  • Full time working dads of children under 15 worked an average of 42 hours per week, while part-timers worked an average of 20 hours.

  • Working mums with children under 6 worked an average of 33 hours per week full-time and 16 hours part-time.

  • Those with older children (6-14) worked 38 hours per week full-time and 18 hours per week part-time on average.

The gender gap between how men and women are pursuing paid work is still significant, meaning the gap between who does the unpaid work will continue to limit opportunities for everyone.



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