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Working Families celebrates it's 40th Anniversary

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clock Released On 8th Jul 2019

Working Families celebrates it's 40th Anniversary

This year, Working Families—the UK’s work-life balance charity—celebrates its 40th anniversary. Over the last four decades, there have been great strides made in improving the working lives of parents and carers. 

In the 1980s, work-life balance was primarily a ‘mothers’ issue’, championed by women who wished to return to work. Interest from organisations centred on childcare as they sought to recruit and retain women. Innovators were just beginning to think about job sharing and new ways of working.

The ‘90s saw the evolution of different kinds of flexible working as a way for employers to enable women to reconcile work and family life.  From 1990, Europe increasingly influenced flexible working in the UK with directives on working time, pregnant workers, parental leave, and part-time workers. In 1999, the Employment Relations Act implemented parental leave and enhanced maternity leave.

In the 2000s, technology started to have a significant impact in changing how and where work is done, and employment regulations helped support this change. More and more the conversation around work-life balance started to include men and carers, as well as mothers. The 2002 Employment Act introduced paid paternity leave of two weeks and a new Right to Request Flexible Working for fathers and mothers (this would be extended to carers in 2006). And in 2006, the Work and Families Act extended maternity leave to a year and pay from six to nine months.

Over the last decade, the business case for work-life balance and flexible working has strengthened—with clear links to employee engagement and high performance.  In 2014, Working Families was instrumental in the Right to Request Flexible Working being extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks of service, and Shared Parental Leave becoming law.

Despite this progress, there is still a long way to go.  Working Families’ 2019 Modern Families Index shows that 80% of parents in the UK are working beyond their contracted hours, and less than half report having access to flexible working in their jobs.  The cost of childcare is high and take-up of Shared Parental Leave is low.

Working Families is continuing to fight for policy change on behalf of parents and carers across the UK. We are calling for jobs to be advertised flexibly; more accessible Shared Parental Leave; longer and better-paid leave for fathers; a level playing field on parental rights for all employees, workers and the self-employed; and a commitment to maintaining family-friendly employment rights after the UK leaves the European Union.

This work wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of our supporters. If you are interested in contributing to Working Families’ important policy work, please consider becoming a Changemaker, part of an exclusive group of regular donors committed to making a difference, changing the world of work for good. 


Working Families is the UK’s leading work-life balance organisation.
The charity helps working parents and carers and their employers find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work.

Website | Twitter @WorkingFamUK  | Facebook @WorkingFamilies

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