Mothers are twice as likely to ask for flexible working

14 May 2024

Research from Pregnant Then Screwed, in partnership with Women In Data, has uncovered that mothers are twice as likely to ask for flexible work after parental leave.

Pregnant Then Screwed surveyed 35,800 parents. Women In Data then extracted a nationally representative sample of 5,870 parents to create a ‘2024 State of the Nation’ report.

The research comes as the new flexible working law comes into force. This law will enable employees to request flexible working from their first day of employment instead of week 26.

It finds that mothers who are working full-time are 2.5 times more likely than full-time dads to request flexible working. Forty-one per cent of single mothers have asked for flexible working. For parents of children with a disability, mothers are twice as likely to ask for flexible working than fathers.

However, two in five mothers said their flexible working request was turned down.

Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said, “Mothers are more likely to shoulder the lion’s-share of the unpaid labour required to care for children and manage a household. As a result, they are more likely to need flexible working. Just three in 10 job adverts offer flexibility, limiting the progression opportunities and earning potential of mothers. Then we wonder why the gender pay gap widens when couples have children and continues to widen further over the subsequent decades.’’ 

An analysis of ONS data from Pregnant Then Screwed found that mums earn 43 per cent less per week than dads – with a pay gap that has grown by 93p per hour since 2020.

The Employment Rights (Flexible working) Act 2023 will enable people to ask for flexible working from their first day in the role. Employees will also be able to make two requests in any twelve-month period rather than the current one request.

Employers will be required to make a decision on the request within two months of receiving it. Currently, you have three months. This is something Pregnant Then Screwed feels does not go far enough.

Joeli added, “Whilst all progress in this space should be celebrated, this law doesn’t go far enough. A right to request is still a right to decline and as we can see from our data, two in five flexible working requests are rejected. This law also means someone has to leave their current job before they can ask their new employer if the hours will work alongside their personal obligations. We campaigned hard for this law to take effect from the point of a job offer rather than the first day of the job, but this campaign was rejected without a clear explanation of why.

‘’The fact that mothers are two times more likely to ask for flexible working inadvertently tells us that mothers are more likely to shape their careers around childcare. Until we have a more equitable parental leave system, this will continue to be the case.”