Despite progress made throughout the pandemic, many parents and carers still lack access to flexible working.

The Working Families Index 2022 show that there has also been an overall increase in the number of parents and carers working flexibly in the UK, with 70 percent of respondents reported working flexibly compared to just 55 percent in 2019.

However, the report also found that higher earners (over £60k) and those in knowledge-based industries are most likely to be working flexibly, leaving many parents and carers on lower incomes and in ‘place-based’ roles behind.   


What are the most and least flexible sectors?

The Index includes a ranking table of the most and least flexible sectors as reported by the parents and carers surveyed: 

Most flexible (over 80% of respondents in these sectors reported working flexibly): 

  1. Marketing advertising and PR
  2. Business consulting and management
  3. Not for profit and charity work
  4. Creative arts and design
  5. Accountancy, banking and finance

Least flexible (less than 65% of respondents in these sectors reported working flexibly): 

  1. Healthcare
  2. Retail
  3. Teacher training and education
  4. Engineering and manufacturing
  5. Transport and logistics

Three of the industries with the least flexibility (healthcare, retail, and teacher training and education) overwhelmingly employ women, disproportionately affecting women’s access to flexible work).


As an employer, what are the benefits of supporting your employees’ family life?

The Index has found that employers who support family life can expect higher levels of loyalty from the parents and carers on their staff. 

Also, respondents who felt confident their family responsibilities wouldn’t affect how fairly they were treated were twice as likely to see themselves staying in their role for the next two years compared with those who didn’t feel this way. 


Chief Executive of Working Families, Jane van Zyl said:

“The Working Families Index emphasises that now more than ever, we need to ensure that flexible working is accessible to all. It’s vital to enabling working parents and carers to access and stay in employment, which is a matter of survival amidst the current cost-of-living crisis.   

“At the moment we are seeing huge growth in home and hybrid working. While we can celebrate this, it’s leaving a lot of working parents and carers behind in sectors where home and hybrid options are less possible. Millions of these are our frontline workers, people who kept vital services going throughout the pandemic. Flexible working should not just be the preserve of those who work at a desk—and working from home is just one of many types of flexible working. We encourage employers in every sector to take a look at all of the ways in which they can make flexible working possible. If employers get this right, they will reap the benefits of increased loyalty and retention.”  


Head of Working Parents at Talking Talent, Lucinda Quigley, said:

For many working parents flexibility isn’t just a nice to have, it’s a crucial part of being able to have both the home life and career they want for themselves. This includes having quality time with their family, managing increasing childcare costs and having a fulfilling professional experience. 

“Any industries or organisations not offering flexible working options could find their high-talent individuals jumping ship in favour of more forward-thinking firms – which will be disastrous for long-term company success and essential industries. Now is the time for bold and honest conversations, and businesses must be ready to listen and enable real change.” 





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.