Flexible work arrangements are often sought to maintain work-life balance. If we believe a study, these arrangements may exacerbate discrimination based on parental status and gender. Researchers analysed the reactions both men and women received while making flexible work requests -- meaning that they either asked to work from home or to work non-traditional hours.
They found that among those who made flexible work requests, men who asked to work from home two days a week in order to care for a child were significantly advantaged compared to women who made the same request.
"These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work," said author Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at Furman University in South Carolina.
Today, we think of women's responsibilities as including paid labour and domestic obligations, but "we still regard breadwinning as men's primary responsibility and we feel grateful if men contribute in the realm of childcare or to other household tasks," she added.
For her study, Munsch used a sample of 646 people in the age group of 18 to 65.
Participants were shown a transcript and told it was an actual conversation between a human resources representative and an employee.
After reading the transcript, participants were asked how likely they would be to grant the request and also to evaluate the employee on several measures, including how likeable, committed, dependable, and dedicated they found him or her.
Among those who read the scenario in which a man requested to work from home for childcare related reasons, 69.7% said they would be "likely" or "very likely" to approve the request, compared to 56.7% of those who read the scenario in which a woman made the request.
Almost a quarter -- 24.3% -- found the man to be "extremely likeable", compared to only three percent who found the woman to be "extremely likeable".
Munsch also found that both men and women who made flexible work requests for childcare related reasons were advantaged compared to those who made the same requests for other reasons.