New data highlights the main disparities when it comes to parents requesting flexible working, and sadly we're not surprised by the findings

We'll give you three guesses as to which parent is more likely to ask for flexible working arrangements from their employer...

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Mums are more likely than dads to request flexible working arrangements when returning from parental leave, according to new research.

Flexible working is crucial for parents looking to balance their childcare commitments with work duties and aspirations. But more often than not, those childcare commitments have a larger, disproportionate impact on a mother's career compared to a father's.

While the motherhood penalty is woefully nothing new, recent research from charity Pregnant Then Screwed has shown that there is still a way to go to level the playing field, finding that mothers who work full time are 2.5 times more likely than full-time working fathers to ask for flexible working when they return to work after maternity leave. Further still, mothers with a disabled child are twice as likely to ask for flexible working than fathers, while 41 per cent of single mothers request flexible working when they return to work.

But sadly, despite the abundant need for flexible arrangements to get mothers back into the workforce, while they take on the lion's share of childcare responsibilities, there is a long way to go before employers catch up. According to Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed: "Just 3 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."

"Until we have a more equitable parental leave system this will continue to be the case."

Beyond that, while the Flexible Working Bill makes it easier for employees to request flexibility, employers still have the right to refuse it. Pregnant Then Screwed found that two in five mothers had their flexible working request rejected. Rejection was twice as likely for mothers with a household income or under £45,000, than for those mothers with a higher household income.

Joeli Brearley goes on to say: "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.” Currently, fathers get only two weeks statutory paternity pay, although 70 per cent of fathers can't afford to take the full two weeks, while mothers can get 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay.

The idea of mothers being primary caregivers is also so deeply ingrained in the societal consciousness, that it feels like there is not one clear and quick fix to level the playing field. But we never stop striving for it.

In other family finance news, mothers earned 43 per cent less than fathers in 2023, and childcare costs have risen by 7 per cent in the last 12 months, putting pressure on family budgets.

Sarah Handley
Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor and is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around childcare costs, child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.