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Modern Families Index: UK parents are working to burnout

The lights are on and a one eyed paper reindeer is looking at me.

It is the 3rd of January. I have a house of sleeping children, a cup of coffee, the radio on (quietly) and I know it’s 8.30am but my Christmas tree lights are ON! I feel a weird sadness when I see the tree with its lights out. All the ‘treasurers’ we have amassed (and are still amassing) over the years are there –handmade by our three children at nursery and school. These wee beauties need lighting up.

I feel ready for 2018, I feel hopeful about what our family will do in the year ahead. I feel energised thinking about the great things I can achieve at work this year.

But I am thinking about how many people in Scotland will be waking up this January feeling it is simply the beginning of another year where they will struggle to combine work and family life, where the strain and stress will push them to breaking point at times.

Newly launched, the Modern Families Index - a study carried out by Working Families, surveying over 2, 700 working parents found:

1. Only 44% felt that flexible working was a genuine option for mothers and fathers in their workplace.

2. Of those parents surveyed that were contracted to work 35-36 hours per week, 40% are putting in extra hours - of whom almost a third are putting in an extra seven hours - the equivalent to an extra working day each week;

3. Lack of work life balance is having a negative impact on family life. For nearly two in five parents (39%), work prevents them from being able to say goodnight to their children often or all the time; and for more than two in five parents (42%), work prevents them being able to help their children with their homework. More than a quarter of parents (28%) reported that their work leads to arguments with their partner;

4. Our economy and employers are also taking a hit as a result of inflexibility and poor work life balance. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) of those surveyed reported they have deliberately stalled their careers. More than 1 in 10 (11%) have refused a new job and 1 in 10 have rejected a promotion because of the limited work life balance opportunities. Where is the great talent we need going to come from if this is how folk are responding?

At Family Friendly Working Scotland, we work with some brilliant and progressive employers across Scotland – big and small – private, public and third sector. Organisations that are creating a different way of working. These employers understand that not everyone wants to or can work full time and are adapting to flexible ways of working. They understand and support employees to balance their work and home life. Why? Because quite simply they realise this is not only the ‘right’ thing to do but it pays dividends for their business as they get a committed, loyal and productive workforce.

I hear feet coming downstairs – my moment by the tree is over but as I think to the year ahead it is with thanks that I have genuine flexibility which enables me to have a great career and also the time I need for my family. I am trusted to deliver and do not feel I need to be ‘seen’ to prove I am working.

Come on, Scotland; let’s continue creating a new working culture for our great nation - one that embraces individuals. Because only then will we flick the switch on productivity, fire up our economy and most importantly bring light to family life.



Family Friendly Working Scotland aims to create and support working culture change in Scotland that builds economic success and improves the lives of families.

Family Friendly Working Scotland works with employers, government, families and others to promote a flexible and family friendly working culture. This is a way of working which delivers business success and enables working families to have a good balance between work and family life.

Spanning boundaries between private, public and third sectors, we offer practical support to employers and share best practice. We also raise awareness of the issues and benefits around flexible and family friendly working. Acting as a nucleus, Family Friendly Working Scotland promotes innovative and sustainable ways of working that are good for families and the Scottish economy.

Family Friendly Working Scotland is a collaborative partnership between Working Families, Fathers Network Scotland, Parenting Across Scotland and the Scottish Government. Sarah Jackson OBE, and CEO of Working Families, chairs the group.

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