• Part-timers miss out on promotion and feel trapped

  • 8 Jul 2013
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Three-quarters feel caught in ‘flexibility trap’, finds study

The majority of part-time workers feel they have no prospect of promotion but have little chance of finding an alternative role with the same seniority and flexibility, research has found.

Three out of four part-timers reported feeling ‘trapped’ in their jobs because they ‘couldn’t move up and couldn’t move out’, according to a study by the Timewise Foundation.

The campaign and recruitment group interviewed 1,000 part-time workers earning the full-time annual equivalent of between £20,000 and £100,000 plus.

More than seven in 10 said that they had not been promoted since making the switch to part-time working, while a fifth claimed that they did not expect to be.

Two-thirds of those surveyed believed that promotion was possible with their current employer – but only by increasing their hours.

However, this was not an option for a third of respondents, who rated the ability to work part-time as ‘crucial’ in their lives. But searching for alternative employment was often not a viable choice, the research revealed.

Although one in four adults employed in the UK works part time, only 3 per cent of all job vacancies advertised are for part-time roles paying the full-time equivalent of £20,000 or more.

Survey respondents who were searching for a different part-time role said they had lowered their expectations of what kind of job they expected to find, with seven in 10 admitting that they had ‘downgraded’ their expectations of both salary and seniority.

“Work in the UK is undergoing a fundamental shift,” said Timewise Foundation co-founder Karen Mattison.

“More than a quarter of UK workers are now part time or flexible, with most needing to fit their careers with something else in life. Yet millions are hitting a wall at key points in their careers, when they want to progress or move to a new role.

“Doing so, without losing their flexibility, presents a real challenge: leaving many feeling trapped in their current jobs,” she continued.

“Britain’s part-time workers need to know that there are forward thinking businesses out there, that do offer a future where flexibility is no inhibitor to success.”

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said that the research had highlighted a clear business case for change around part-time working strategies.

“Flexible working is a means to an end – delivering highly productive, engaged and motivated workers,” she explained. “Unless flexible workers are given equal opportunities for advancing their careers, the business benefits will be undermined. We should not be asking women or men to choose between a work-life balance and a career – it is high time they had both.” 

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  • This is really depressing reading. And I daresay this situation affects women more which makes it even scarier and more worrying because it is also getting to the stage where more and more women need to go out to work to support the family. Being trapped in a part-time job for years and years is just un-acceptable, especially for committed and ambitious women, who have to look after the family but still want fulfilment and advancement in a professional capacity. I wonder where and how it all went so wrong. Really sad.

  • The survey findings certainly match my own experience over the past 23 years.

    During the 1980s I worked full time and quickly climbed the career ladder to a senior management level.

    All of that changed in 1990 when I returned from my first maternity leave and reduced my hours. I resigned from this part time post in 1993 when my children were young and since then I have worked in a variety of lower level roles within and outside of the profession. Some of these roles were unpaid in the voluntary sector as I could not secure a suitable part time HR role in the 1990s at a senior level.

    Promotion is now a distant memory. I was never considered for promotion in my most recent job share advisory role which I held for 10 years. I wasn't in a position to increase my hours due to ongoing caring commitments and was eventually made redundant. Now I would be grateful for any suitable part time role but the statistics above (only 3% of roles over £20,000 FTE are advertised part time) make depressing reading.

    This is very disappointing news for those who are trapped in part time roles and wish to progress their careers without increasing their hours, or for people like me who have recently been made redundant from part time posts.