Flexible Hours Elude Working Mothers

May 10, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Although one might assume that working mothers have been able to rely on flexible scheduling to balance home and office demands, a new study says that's not so.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study, Working Mothers in a Double Bind, said the employed moms struggle to make things work because the flex time benefits are often reserved for higher-paid employees – mostly white men.

‘Timed’ Out

Relying on worker provided insights, the study showed single mothers had the most rigid schedules, while black workers had more rigid schedules than their white counterparts. However, those results were based on the worker’s assessment of who usually made the decision about when to take time off – the worker or someone else.  The study analyzed previous surveys of workers age 18 to 75, taken from 1991 and 1998. 

Speaking at a news conference, study author Elaine McCrate, a University of Vermont economist, said US workers could benefit from European-style laws that set a minimum number of sick days, personal days, and vacation time for unexpected family needs.  McCrate also advocated better enforced affirmative action to help women and black workers move into more flexible jobs.

She also urged employers to offer a range of options for working parents. For example, a company could offer telecommuting or reduced work schedules for full-time employees.
Flex Workers Pay

The study also challenges what McCrate said is a widely held belief among economists that workers who enjoy more flexible schedules earn less than those with more rigid schedules.
In fact, the study found that workers who decide when they start or finish work earn 16.6% more than workers with rigid schedules. Workers who can decide when to take a day off earn 9.3% more than those without such flexibility, according to the study.

EPI is a Washington-based economic research group.

The study is available on the EPI Web site at http://www.epinet.org .