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Single parents rate work flexibility above salary

Finding the right balance between work and family is a challenge for all working parents. But for single parents it can be particularly demanding as there are often fewer options available. When it comes to the crunch, many single parents would choose jobs that fit around the practicalities of childcare rather than those that match their ambitions or skills, according to new research.

There are 2 million single parents in Britain and 59 per cent of them are already in work. Recent changes in the benefits system mean that single parents whose youngest child is five or older are now required to seek work.

Research into employment aspirations carried out by Gingerbread found that single parents valued proximity of work to their child's school, part-time or flexible working, and an understanding line manager far more than the job role itself or salary.

Two-thirds of single parents (65 per cent) considered part-time hours or flexible work to be the key feature of their ideal job and two-fifths (38 per cent) ideally wanted a job that allowed emergency time off.

The study found evidence that among those in work, some single parents avoided promotions in case the potential extra hours and responsibility were too difficult to reconcile with the pressures of home life.

Others said that they had deliberately 'bumped down', actively choosing less demanding jobs that were more flexible than previous higher level work, which was better suited to their qualifications, skill and experience.

The report calls for organisations to offer more flexible ways of working at all levels, whether for existing or newly recruited employees. It claims the benefits of flexible working include 'a positive impact to the bottom line, as well as delivering a virtuous circle of higher employee morale, leading to increased staff engagement, retention and productivity'.

Acas provides detailed advice and guidance to employers and employees on The right to request flexible working and has published the Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance . Acas also runs practical training courses for employers on matters related to Flexible working for work and families.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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