Working parents who are struggling to cope with the strain of overtime are having to scale-back their careers, according to a new study.
The research by charity Working Families and Bright Horizons, a provider of nurseries and day schools, revealed that significant numbers of parents are having to work more than their contracted hours due to increasingly intense workloads or because they feel it is expected of them.
The study of over 2,700 working parents, showed that of those contracted to work between 35 and 36 hours each week, four out of 10 said they were having to put in extra hours, with some doing up to an extra seven.
Meanwhile, a third of part-time workers who were contracted to work for 25 hours each week were putting in around 10 extra hours – enough for a full-time job.
The figures paint a worrying picture for parents in the UK, with Britain’s long-hours working culture having a profound impact on personal wellbeing and the ability for families to spend time together.
Four out of 10 parents said that work prevents them from being able to say goodnight to their children, while one in four said that work has led to arguments with their partner.
Working overtime was also linked to people eating less healthily and not having enough time to do regular exercise.
The study found that with many feeling increasingly overwhelmed they are deliberately stalling their careers or refusing new job promotions to strike a better work-life balance.
“For mothers and for fathers, becoming a parent looks like a bad career move. Because the norm for people who want to get ahead is still to show up early, leave late and be on email out of hours – and parents have less time to give, putting them at a disadvantage,” said Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families.
“Parents are responding to the pressures on them by acting – deliberately stalling and downshifting their careers. With more than 11 million working parents in the UK, our economy can ill afford this ‘parenthood penalty’,” she added.
“We need a more widespread, genuinely flexible approach to work. But on its own, flexible working is not enough if all it delivers is the flexibility to manage a bumper workload,” she said.