Will flexible working policies confirm that a woman’s place is in the home?

16 July 2003

Home-based teleworking is used by mothers but shunned by fathers of young children, concludes the Institute for Employment Studies after analysing the government’s latest Labour Force Survey results.

On 6 April 2003, the government introduced an important new legal duty on employers to consider applications for flexible working from parents of young or disabled children. The right of workers to ask to be allowed to telework forms an important part of the provisions of the ‘work and family provisions’ of the Employment Act, 2002. But to what extent does teleworking bring about greater flexibility for parents of young children?

In Spring 2002, 1.78 million workers (nearly six and a half per cent of all people in employment in the UK) were teleworking — working remotely from their offices relying on a telecommunications link to receive and deliver work.

Nearly 400, 000 of these teleworkers worked mainly in their own homes, whilst over 800,000 used their homes as a base for mobile teleworking. The remainder can be described as ‘occasional teleworkers’ who worked from home during the week the survey was carried out.

Technology for childcare?

An analysis by gender shows a strong difference between men and women. Women use teleworking to work from home (making up 53% of all telehomeworkers). Men, by contrast, are much more likely to use the new information technologies to support a roving workstyle, making up 79% of all mobile teleworkers (see Table 1).

Furthermore, telehomeworkers are much more likely to be part-time (at 44%) compared with mobile teleworkers, of whom only 16% work part-time (see Table 2). This seems to be associated with traditional patterns, whereby women take primary responsibility for childcare (see Table 3).

As Peter Bates, IES Research Fellow, said:

‘Whilst 12% of all women in employment have children under five, this rises to 23% among women who are telehomeworkers. But surely telehomeworking also opens up the opportunity for men to become househusbands and share in the childcare?’

As IES Associate Fellow Ursula Huws comments:

‘The evidence suggests that this is very much the exception. Whilst 15% of all men in the workforce have children under five, this is the case for only 10% of male telehomeworkers. So you could say that (at least up to 2002) there is some evidence of men with young children actually avoiding working at home.’

It will remain to be seen whether the new legislation will bring about a change in the balance of responsibility between mothers and fathers, or whether the new right to telework will simply entrench the view that a woman’s place is in the home.

Background information

In this analysis of the latest UK data by the Institute for Employment Studies, several different categories of teleworker have been identified. These are:

  1. Telehomeworkers: people who spend most of their time working at home and who require a telecommunications link to deliver work to their employer or client. Multilocational teleworkers: people mainly working from their homes as a base and who require a telecommunications link to deliver work to their employer or client.

  2. Occasional teleworkers: people who worked remotely at some time during the week of the labour force survey and who require a telecommunications link to deliver work to their employer or client.

  3. These first three categories are grouped together as ‘all teleworkers’.

  4. In addition, there are some workers who work remotely using information and telecommunications technologies but who say that they do not require these technologies in order to work remotely. These have been designated ‘eEnabled remote workers’.

  5. Finally, for comparison purposes, the tables also show those workers who do not telework, and the total profile of the UK labour force.

For further information

For further press information about this analysis and similar work within IES, please contact Peter Bates on 01273 873681.

Tables

Table 1: Telework in the UK in 2002, by gender


  Telehome-
workers
Mobile
tele-
workers
Occasional
tele-
workers
All
tele-
workers
eEnabled
remote
workers
Other
workers
all

Male 186,700 650,196 366,948 1,203,844 216,803 14,088,724 15,509,371
Female 207,965 173,576 194,637 576,178 138,580 11,983,006 12,697,764
Total 394,665 823,772 561,585 1,780,022 355,383 26,071,730 28,207,135
% of work-force 1.4% 2.92% 1.99% 6.31% 1.26% 92.43% 100%

Source: Office of National Statistics, Labour Force Survey, Spring, 2002, analysis by the Institute for Employment Studies

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Table 2: Telework in the UK in 2002, by working hours


  Telehome-
workers
Mobile
tele-
workers
Occasional
tele-
workers
All
tele-
workers
eEnabled
workers
Other
workers
all

Full-time 219,250 688,724 505,776 1,413,750 279,400 19,496,723 21,189,873
Part-time 174,595 134,614 55,809 365,018 75,983 6,568,563 7,009,564
Total 393,845 823,338 561,585 1,778,768 355,383 26,065,286 28,199,437
p/t as % of total 44.33% 16.35% 9.94% 20.52% 21.38% 25.20% 24.86%

Source: Office of National Statistics, Labour Force Survey, Spring, 2002, analysis by the Institute for Employment Studies

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Table 3: Telework in the UK in 2002, by whether parents of young children (%)


  Telehome-
workers
Mobile
tele-
workers
Occasional
tele-
workers
All
tele-
workers
eEnabled
workers
Other
workers
all

Male  
no children under 5 89.6 84.3 81.2 84.2 84.9 85.2 85.1
children under 5 10.4 15.7 18.8 15.8 15.1 14.8 14.9
Total 186,700 650,196 366,948 1,203,844 216,803 1,408,8724 15,509,371
Female  
no children under 5 77.4 86.8 89.1 84.2 86.5 88.1 87.9
children under 5 22.6 13.2 10.9 15.8 13.5 11.9 12.1
Total 207,965 173,576 194,637 576,178 138,580 11,983,006 12,697,764

Source: Office of National Statistics, Labour Force Survey, Spring, 2002, analysis by the Institute for Employment Studies

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