Almost a third of fathers lack access to flexible work arrangements

Almost a third of working fathers in the UK lack access to flexible work arrangements, new research says.

The British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Newcastle heard today [Tuesday 10 April] that 30% of employed fathers surveyed could not work part-time, have flexible employment hours or work in a job share.

The rate for women without flexible working was lower –10%, the researchers, from the UCL Institute of Education, the University of East Anglia, and the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) found.

The researchers examined data on 3,965 mothers and 4,211 fathers who were in employment and had children aged 16 or younger. They found that:

  • 42% of fathers and 78% of mothers had the opportunity to work part-time 
  • 19% of fathers and 31% of mothers had the opportunity to work in a job share 
  • 13% of fathers and 28% of mothers could work during term-time only
  • 38% of fathers and 37% of mothers could work in a flexi-time arrangement
  • 23% of fathers and 19% of mothers could work from home
  • 30% of fathers and 10% of mothers reported that none of these options were available.

All staff who have worked for at least six months in a job have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements, and employers can only refuse if they have a good business reason.

Fathers in lower status occupations, in the private sector, and in non-unionized workplaces had less access to flexible working, compared to fathers in professional and managerial occupations, the public sector, and unionized workplaces.

The researchers were: Rose Cook and Professor Margaret O’Brien, of UCL Institute of Education; Professor Sara Connolly and Dr Matthew Aldrich, of the University of East Anglia; and Dr Svetlana Speight, of NatCen.

Ms Cook told the conference: “This research underscores both a striking lack of access among fathers in general, and that flexible working is not being made sufficiently available to all groups of working fathers.

“For fathers, both individual characteristics and features of workplaces are important in determining lack of access to flexible working.

“Fathers’ lack of access to flexible working is associated with a combination of disadvantages relating to low education, lower status occupations, private sector employers and lack of union presence.”

By analysing the data, the researchers found that fathers in technical occupations were almost three times more likely to lack access to flexible working than those in professional and managerial positions.

For more information, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392


  1. All employees are entitled to request flexible working arrangements. Employers must have a sound business reason for rejecting a request. However, self-employed workers are excluded, and employees must have worked for their employer continuously for 26 weeks before applying.
  2. The researchers used data collected for the 2015 wave of the Understanding Society survey in the UK. Each employed participant was asked: ‘I would like to ask about working arrangements at the place where you work. If you personally needed any, which of the arrangements listed on the card are available at your workplace?’ The options given on the card were: flexi-time, part-time working, working a compressed week, to work from home on a regular basis, working term-time only, job sharing, to work annualised hours, other flexible working arrangements, none of these.
  3. The British Sociological Association’s annual conference takes place at Northumbria University, Newcastle, from 10 to 12 April 2018. Over 700 research presentations are given. The British Sociological Association’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235