The other side of the gender pay gap
In my last blog post, I talked about the flexibility pay gap; the fact that people who choose jobs which allow a more flexible work schedule pay for it by earning considerably less money. I focussed on the fact that women generally have a greater need or preference to work flexibly, and that therefore they have been the most financially disadvantaged by traditional rigid work arrangements.
However, inflexible work arrangements have also had a negative impact on men. While the flexibility pay gap has primarily affected women’s financial prospects, men have paid with their health and wellbeing.
This is because there is a greater expectation for men to simply accept inflexibility from their employers. Accordingly, men are often put in a position where they are forced to prioritise work over other aspects of their life. Indeed, research conducted here at Diversity Inclusion has shown that across a number of organisations, 80% of men would like more flexibility in the way they work, such as being able to adjust their start and finish times or work outside of the office.
The key point is that often some form of flexible work arrangements were already available, but men felt unable to use them. Men cited damaging effects on their careers, a lack of support from management, and the perception that flexibility is only for women, as major reasons for not using flexible work arrangements. These findings were supported by research from the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2014, which found that 27 percent of fathers reported experiencing discrimination related to parental leave and returning to work. Indeed, previous research has shown that men are twice as likely as women to have their requests for flexible working denied.
What is problematic about this situation is that flexible work arrangements can be a major protective factor against the mental health risks of high stress work. Stigma against flexible work arrangements being used by men leaves them in a position where they potentially have to compromise their mental health, family and relationships for the sake of their careers.
A substantial literature shows that inflexible work arrangements increase turnover intentions, role conflict, stress, and burnout; and also reduce job satisfaction. This is a major concern, given the already poor state of men’s mental health in Australia. Lack of access to flexible work arrangements also makes it more difficult for men to take on an equal share of parenting and household responsibilities.
For this reason, Diversity Inclusion assists organisations to challenge stereotypes and myths around who can benefit from flexible working. In particular, we aim to demonstrate how organisations can benefit from enabling their staff to work more flexibly.
We'd love to hear about your experiences of requesting a flexible work arrangement, and working flexibly; if you have an experience to share, please leave a comment below.
by Jordan Gabriels