A groundbreaking post-pandemic study conducted by social enterprise Timewise has shattered the long-standing myth that part-time workers are inherently unambitious.

The report, titled A Question of Time, surveyed 4,000 workers in the UK, providing a comprehensive look at the state of part-time employment in the country.

As of now, part-time workers constitute a quarter of the UK’s workforce, encompassing a staggering 8 million individuals.

Timewise’s research reveals that 38 percent of women in employment opt for part-time work, in stark contrast to 14 percent of men. Additionally, 43 percent of workers aged 50 and above embrace part-time schedules.

The study indicates a significant shift in attitudes towards part-time workers. For years, part-time employment has been unfairly linked to a lack of ambition, often considered suitable only for junior roles.

The report highlights a pivotal turning point, with 50 percent of respondents now disagreeing with the notion that part-time workers are unambitious, while only 23 percent maintain this outdated perspective.

Persistent challenges still remain

Nevertheless, the research brings to light persistent challenges for part-time workers. Although more people recognise their ambition, there remains a prevailing perception that part-time roles impede career progression. Almost half of UK workers (46%) agree that part-time work limits career advancement, with 32 percent expressing uncertainty on the matter.

Notably, managers, often holding the key to flexible work arrangements, are conflicted on the issue. While 40 percent of managers are open to considering part-time options in the future, 53 percent view part-time work as a barrier to career progression, adding complexity to the landscape.

Demographic nuances further complicate the narrative. Women, more than men, often opt for part-time work due to caregiving responsibilities, with 32 percent of female part-time workers citing caregiving as a reason. Men, on the other hand, are 16 percentage points more likely to perceive part-time workers as less ambitious than their full-time counterparts.

The study also reveals variations among ethnic groups, with respondents from Asian minority ethnic groups more likely to believe that part-time work limits career progression compared to their white counterparts (58% vs. 45%).

The report concludes with recommendations supported by major corporations such as Diageo, Lloyds Banking Group, and Phoenix Group:

  1. Advocate for a range of flexible working arrangements for all roles.
  2. Integrate part-time work into equality, diversity, and inclusion strategies.
  3. Promote job sharing as a key solution for making part-time options available in senior roles.

Dr. Sarah Dauncey, who led the research, emphasises the need for businesses to adopt a more dynamic and inclusive approach to working hours. “Businesses need to listen to the voices shared in our study and consider how to take a more dynamic and inclusive approach to working hours, enabling people to dial up and down their working hours at different life stages and have more choice and control.”

Phoenix Group’s Cath Sermon echoes these sentiments, urging employers to take the recommended actions seriously. “There is growing, but unmet demand for part-time work, which is vital if we want to help people enjoy the benefits of working while also managing their health, caring for family, and other activities that are important to them.”

The report calls for a re-evaluation of entrenched perceptions surrounding part-time work, positioning it as a crucial aspect of a modern and inclusive workforce.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.