Modern Families Index: Summary of the 2016 Annual Snapshot of UK’s Working Families

This week we attended the Working Families Policy Conference where the key findings from the annual Modern Families Index survey were published.  The Working Families report is sponsored by Bright Horizons and surveys 1000 working families across the UK.  It provides us with a crucial insight into the issues affecting working mothers and fathers; their challenges and aspirations.  Here are some of the findings we found of particular interest:

  1. More parents are working full-time and the “typical” family arrangement, where a father works full-time and a mother works part-time, is no longer the norm. In 49% of couple households both parents are working full-time.  This may be due to financial pressures, consequences of the recession, coupled with more opportunities for women in the workplace.
  2. Fathers are doing more. More than one in five fathers now say they share care, with younger parents the most likely to report working flexibly and sharing family responsibilities.  Young fathers, in particular, have an appetite to be more involved with family life.  69% of fathers aged 16-35 work flexibly compared with 54% of fathers aged 36-45 and 52% of fathers aged 45+.
  3. Income and use of flexible working are related. There is evidence that people on higher incomes are more likely to work flexibly: nearly 80 per cent of those earning between £50,000 and £70,000 reported they are able to access flexible working. This may be because higher paid employees enjoy more autonomy at work, and are able to determine their own working patterns with less managerial control.
  4. Parents continue to work extra hours just to get the job done. For those parents working more than 24 hours a week, the gap between contracted hours and actual hours worked increases. In some cases this can be extreme, with parents reporting they are putting in two extra hours a day, or ten hours each week.  The main reason given for working late is ‘It’s the only way to deal with my workload’.
  5. Working parents are increasingly feeling “burnout”. 29% (nearly a third of parents!) reported being burned out often or all the time due to the toll of family and work obligations.  Parents were clear about where burnout originated from in their family and work mix, with three quarters identifying work as the element in the mix that would have to change to reduce their feeling of burnout.  This is worrying and is not sustainable in the long term.
  6. Mothers are seen as the main care providers by schools and childcare providers and are much more likely to be called if there is a problem. Both mothers and fathers say that it is easier for mothers to take time off for emergencies, suggesting that the culture within many workplaces follows old traditional lines about who works and cares.  Also, much of working parents’ annual leave is being used to cover childcare emergencies, at the detriment of family time together.
  7. Women remain more likely than men to consider childcare responsibilities before taking a promotion or new job opportunity. Over 60% of women strongly agree that they would need to do this compared to 36 % of men.

Understanding the concerns of our working families helps us at PfP Coaching to ensure our workshops, material, advice and research remains current.  Many of the workshop-discussions are inspired by (sometimes contentious and surprising) quotes and statistics such as these from the Modern Families Index.  We would like to thank both Working Families and Bright Horizons for this invaluable contribution.

Here is the link to the full report: (

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