Poor flexible working arrangements mean millions of workers are forced to take part-time jobs which do not use all their skills, a new report has said.
Family responsibilities force people to work part-time, the EOC says
The Equal Opportunities Commission said old-fashioned attitudes in the UK workplace were damaging the economy.
About 80% of part-timers said they were not being tested at work, the three-year research project found.
It identified a "new underclass" unable to work nine-to-five jobs because of responsibilities as parents or carers.
The EOC found 5.6 million part-timers were working below their potential, with 3.6 million of those having changed jobs because they were looking after children or someone else in the family.
It said that part-time jobs were generally only available in low-level positions in certain sectors.
Working part-time could also damage women's earning potential in the long-term, the report said.
"There is some really old-fashioned thinking that is putting part-timers into a working time ghetto," EOC chief executive Caroline Slocock told the BBC.
"The other side of the coin is that full-timers are working longer and longer, work is intensifying and people are burning out."
The report urged the government to promote flexible working by extending existing rights to all employees, introducing training for managers, and providing financial incentives to small firms.
I had to change my job when I returned to work after maternity leave a year ago. I needed to work part-time (not possible in my previous job) and nearer to home, for childcare reasons. While my new employer is fantastic in terms of flexible hours, time off and working conditions, I do still feel ghettoised as a part-timer. I miss out on information loops at work, and feel out of touch sometimes with current issues. I think it's a matter of the working culture, and I hope it will change! My new job is different from the career path I had been following previous to my maternity leave, and while I enjoy the much lower levels of stress and the disappearance of unsociable working hours, I must admit to being slightly worried about my prospects once my children go to school and I have the option to return to my full-time career.
Helen, Hampshire, UK
At my work place we have fixed 9-17, working arrangements with no flexibility. It does cause stress with family life, in order to fit things in. Flexible hours, where there is a core hour arrangement such as 10-12 and 14-16, would help in fitting appointments and other commitments outside these hours, even though completing a full working day.
Mohammed Ali, Bedford, Bedfordshire
I work as a customer service adviser dealing with mobile phone queries. My employer instigated a shift change to meet service demand (the amount of calls to customer service and the amount of advisers dealing). I was advised that I would have to work till 10 at least one night a week. I advised my employer that I am a sole carer for my father and was there any way they could assist me in this task with a 9-5 Monday to Friday shift. I was advised that if I was a parent with a child under the age of 6 they would accommodate but as I only look after my father there is nothing they are prepared to do. Am I being treated fairly by my employer? Is there any advice anyone can offer?
Thomas Staley, Bury, Lancashire, England
I worked for a company for 16 years and had to leave my junior management position due to inflexibility at work. I have a demanding special needs son and was fortunate enough to work close to home. Due to a re-organisation I was forced to work in the city which incurred a 3 hour round trip each day. My managers were very unsupportive and I was forced to take voluntary redundancy. Needless to say I have been unable to gain employment working to my full potential and had to take a considerable drop in pay. The economy and myself are both losers!
Dawn Blackett, Surrey, UK
I work for an NHS Primary Care Trust and before I left on maternity leave, was PA to the Chair and Chief Executive. When I returned to work following my maternity leave it was decided that the post could not be done on a part time basis and so I was given a position as an administrator in our Human Resources department. I am grateful to still be in employment however the job I now do is far less challenging than the job I was doing before. The only up-side is that I am paid the same salary as the job I was doing previously as they have to protect my pay. However, I am being highly overpaid for doing a job that in no way is worth that kind of money.
Laura, Berkshire, UK
My wife returned to work 3 days a week last year after maternity leave. To fit in with other returnees she offered to take Wednesdays, Thursday and Friday provided something was sorted out about Bank Holidays. This part was ignored and subsequently she has been told that no allowance will be made. This means that for the same salary and holiday allowance as her colleagues she has to work up to 7 days more every year. Whichever way you look at it - how can this be fair?
Mark Serlin, London, UK
I worked full-time in London before my son was born and after extended maternity leave I went back part-time three full days a week. It soon became apparent to me that although I had returned to the same position I was being sidelined in the decision making process and was effectively demoted to a lower level of work which I found very frustrating and boring. I have since left the company and am a full-time Mum after the birth of my daughter. I do not look forward to returning to the workplace because I can't see any interesting or responsible positions in the part-time sector and I am currently thinking about free-lancing.
Iris Lamparter, Suffolk
I totally agree with this article. I have a degree in psychology and a post grad in research and am looking for a job working with parents and families of children with special needs. However as I have a 16 month old son and a partner that works full time I want a part time job. These jobs are just not available in my field. I've taken to applying for Classroom assistant positions but don't even get an interview as I am classed as "over qualified" it is so frustrating that after 6 years at university I cannot get employed and feel I am sponging off my partner. Kathleen
Kathleen Browne, Bo'ness, Falkirk