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Breakfast Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
Which comes first: work or family?
Parents are increasingly missing out on watching their children grow up because of long working hours.

A snapshot of Britain, carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has found that nearly half of all fathers are putting in long hours at the expense of their family life.

For many people, mums as well as dads, a 9-5 job simply no longer exists, it found.

  • Breakfast talked to one father and son about the impact that working long hours has had on their relationship.


    The survey on working fathers coincides with a separate study, which has discovered that many women still put their careers on the back burner when they have children.

    Nearly one third of women have downgraded career expectations after childbirth, a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development report said.

    By contrast only 19% of men said their career was no longer on track after becoming a father.

    The reports have been released as part of Work-Life Balance week, which is designed to campaign for better working conditions and promote flexible employment.

    Career aspirations

    More than half of those surveyed by the CIPD said they had switched roles or jobs after becoming a parent.

    If you have moved jobs, why did you leave?
    Family commitments: Male (12%), Female (28%)
    More flexibility/convenience: Male (9%), Female (28%)
    Career progress: Male (44%), Female (17%)
    Other: Male (35%), Female (28%)
    Source: CIPD

    Just under a third changed from full-time to part-time hours, while 14% stopped work completely.

    A further 13% made some other change to their hours, for example, by switching to a four-day working week.

    Women were three times more likely to change their work patterns than men, with only 26% continuing to work the same hours as previously.

    Birth change

    According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, parents in professional jobs were in a better position to adjust their working arrangements to suit their career aspirations and family needs.

    Parents from lower-income groups were more likely to say they have no scope to negotiate more flexible arrangements.

    In April 2003, parents with young children will have the right to put their case for flexible working arrangements to employers, but researchers said many families would miss out.

    Ivana La Valle, a co-author of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation study, said: "Low-income families may feel they simply cannot afford to exercise their new 'right'.

    "Their need to enhance their take-home pay by working overtime and atypical hours is a major constraint on their ability to achieve a better balance between work and family life."

    Childcare costs

    CIPD's survey backed up the foundation's findings.

    As many as 57% of parents in households earning over 40,000 a year were still working the same hours, the report said.

    Lower earners - those households earning less than 20,000 a year - were most likely to stop work completely, possibly because of childcare costs.

    Four out of 10 parents felt childcare provision in the UK was poor.

    Stressed out

    Having children was viewed as a major source of stress by parents.

    As many as 80% of Britons said that having children increased stress levels - either slightly or considerably.

    But stress levels did not seem to be affected by working status: parents who were working full-time experienced similar stress levels to those who had given up work to raise a family.

    The little time parents spent together as a couple was the main casualty of modern working arrangements, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said.

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    See also:

    24 Sep 02 | Working Lunch
    24 Sep 02 | Business
    23 Sep 02 | Working Lunch
    22 Sep 02 | Business
    29 Aug 02 | Business
    30 Aug 02 | Business
    23 Aug 02 | Business

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