Part-timers

15 Mar

In sections of the City there’s a word for people who work 9 to 5: they’re called ‘part-timers’.  Want to be rewarded and get home in time to see your kids? ‘Get a life’.  Well some of us (mainly women, surprise, surprise) do baulk at the long hours culture and go about creating a balance in a variety of ways: freelancing, downshifting, leaving work ‘temporarily’ – or, the holy grail, finding a ‘quality part-time job’.

A report out today, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and commissioned by Women Like Us, the recruitment enterprise specialising in part-time vacancies, shows just how difficult it remains to find part-time work reflecting moderate to high skill levels.  Only 3% of vacancies are part-time and pay above £20,000 full-time equivalent wages.  There is only 1 part-time vacancy paying above £20K for every 18 full-time posts.  In other words, part-time jobs on the open market are a synonym for ‘low-grade’.

And the truth is that most higher-grade part-time work is negotiated down: posts that were full-time until someone asked to be retained on reduced hours.  This comes as no surprise to anyone who stepped off the ladder and has tried to find part-time work afterwards.  The commitment issue is the most galling: ever sat in a job interview for a skilled post advertised as ‘part-time and flexible’ ‘with the option of homeworking’ only to meet a brick wall on negotiating hours in the office?  Less committed people would give up and sit moaning at home after they had been told for the nth time that they were the best candidate for the job, but flexibility is on our terms only. Give one person part-time office hours, next thing the whole team will want them.  Perish the thought.  Be the change you want to see is the mantra: it means fighting for every decent bit of work that can be negotiated around family commitments.

Wonklifebalance is the blog of a policy analyst who likes to combine work and family life – the real scandal is that this is so difficult to achieve, and exacts such a high price for trying.  They have a word for this too: it’s called ‘choice’.

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