2016 Modern Families Index

Date: 27 Jan 2016

Millennial parents are striving to “have it all”, but are struggling to maintain their family and work commitments, according to a major new study of family life. The 2016 Modern Families Index, published today by Bright Horizons and work-life charity Working Families, also captures a broader picture of working parents increasingly feeling “burnout” due to family and work commitments, with millennial parents being particularly prone to burnout. 
 
The 2016 Modern Families Index reveals that millennial parents are more likely to both work full time with 78% of parents in this age group working full time. Millennial fathers are the most likely to be working flexibly and sharing family obligations. 69% of millennial fathers work flexibly compared with 54% of fathers aged 36-45 and 52% of fathers aged 45+.
 
That said, millennial parents are nearly twice as likely to feel burnout. 42% of millennial parents said they feel burnt out most or all of the time, compared with only 22% of 36-45 year olds and 17% of those over 45. Millennials are also the most likely to say they would like to downshift and the most willing to take a pay cut to find a better work-life balance. 38% of millennial parents would consider a pay-cut compared to 28% overall. Career progression that means working long hours and missing out on family life is less appealing to younger parents. 
 
Millennial fathers continue to feel the most resentful towards their employers and also represent the group that is least comfortable asking employers for working time limits.  More than half of millennial fathers (58%) would not feel confident asking their employer about reducing their hours, working remotely or placing boundaries on responding to calls or emails. 42% of millennial fathers feel resentful towards their employers, compared to 32% overall. 
 
The 2016 Modern Families Index will be officially launched on Tuesday afternoon at the Working Families Annual Policy Conference, which is due to take place at the Abbey Centre in Westminster. Representatives from a number of leading children’s and families charities, as well as Bright Horizons and Working Families are scheduled to speak at the event.
 
Denise Priest, Director of Employer Partnerships at Bright Horizons, said: “The 2016 Modern Families Index shows that millennials are doings things differently at work and at home, and have a strong desire to be involved with their children and families. This is the new generation of parents who are rebooting traditional working and caring patterns, but also challenging embedded notions of engagement and loyalty in the workplace. However, these increased expectations continue to bump up against working commitments, leading to stress and in some cases burnout.”
 
Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “The sands are shifting – younger parents are more likely to share care than the generations before them. But they're on shaky ground because working life hasn’t caught up. Long and inflexible hours remain the norm with many parents telling us they work up to ten extra hours a week.  If we want children to have the time with parents that they need, and for parents to give their best at work, employers need to tackle unrealistic and unmanageable workloads. Otherwise we’re short-changing families and we’re short-changing the economy.”
 
Overall, a third of all parents (29%) reported being burnt out often or all the time. 46% of parents said that their working life was becoming increasingly stressful. More than a third (35%) felt that work negatively impacted their family life. Where work increasingly encroaches upon family life, the effects can enter into a negative pattern for working parents and spill back over into the workplace. 35% of parents said they take annual leave to cope and 28% of parents said they would take sick leave to cope. 
 
The study also reveals that the traditional arrangement of a father working full-time and a mother working part-time is no longer the most common working pattern for these families. Almost half of all working families have both parents working full-time, more than ever before. 
 
Some further data points from the report: 
• There is evidence that people on higher incomes are more likely to work flexibly: nearly 80% of those earning between £50,000 and £70,000 reporting they are able to access flexible working. Only 50  per cent of those earning less than £30,000 did 
• Parents continue to put in extra hours just to get the job done. In some cases an additional ten hours a week– this is almost 74 days a year for someone contracted to work 7 hours per day 
• Women remain more likely than men to consider childcare responsibilities before taking a new job: over 60% of women strongly agree that they would need to do this compared to 36% of men 
• Although all parents prioritise spending time with children when getting home from work, traditional gender roles still persist in the home. Mothers (nearly 45%) are more likely than fathers (just under 25%) to start doing domestic chores straight away.  
 
The study saw 1000 people interviewed across the United Kingdom, covering a balanced spread of working patterns, age ranges and income bands. To download the full report please click here.