Flexible working: Employees with other responsibilities feel that parents are being given preferential treatment

Childless employees are becoming resentful of family-friendly policies in workplaces, which allow people to work flexibly and take time off to look after their children.

Childless employees are becoming resentful of family-friendly policies in workplaces, which allow people to work flexibly and take time off to look after their children.

A study of 2,000 managers has found that 55 per cent said family-friendly policies had created resentment.

The findings show that employees who have chosen not to have children also want the benefits of flexible working to balance home and work lives. Many had commitments such as caring for elderly parents, or wanted to spend more time on hobbies and voluntary work.

The research found a widening gap between the experiences of employees with and without children. Those with children felt their organisations were not flexible enough. Three out of 10 working parents said it was unacceptable within their organisation's culture to ask for family-friendly hours, and less than one-third were happy with the amount of time they were able to spend with their children.

However, those without children felt that working parents were given special treatment. One manager in the study said: "I do not have children and sometimes resent the emphasis on people who do being the only ones who want more time at home. I have commitments and a life too, and I would like 'family-friendly' policies to be 'home-friendly' policies instead. This is what makes those of us without children resentful."

Rufus Olins, editor-in-chief of Management Today, which commissioned the study, said: "Parents are sometimes treated as special cases, getting the best shift or being allowed to go home because there is a crisis with the nanny. Those employees without children can feel it is a one-way street of preferential treatment."

The increasing resentment has eroded loyalty within many organisations. Four out of 10 people said they did not expect to be working for their present employer in two years' time.

The stress of work left half the men interviewed and 65 per cent of the women unable to do much outside work. Four out of 10 said they rarely got enough sleep. "These results show that career demands are squeezing out personal pursuits," Mr Olins said. "Most people feel that flexible working offers the only way out of a bind."

In the study, 46 per cent said they would not hesitate to change jobs for a better quality of life. Women managerswere far more willing than men to trade money for quality of life.

The report, "Time to Choose", by Ceridian Performance Partners, a consultancy firm, said employers should recognise that the demands on and responsibilities of their workforces had changed in the past five years. "The evidence of cynicism and resentment towards family-friendly employment policies, from both parents and non-parents, makes sobering reading for employers in all sectors."

More than four out of 10 managers - 43 per cent - said they would work more efficiently if they were allowed to work flexibly, but more than two-thirds said they still felt they had to be "present" and seen to be working at their company to be appreciated.

Penny de Valk, managing director of Ceridian, said: "'Presenteeism' can be as damaging to business as to the individual. Companies that can figure out how to support their people in balancing work and life will be the ones who attract and keep the best talent."

The study found that women managers felt under more pressure at home and at work than men did. One-third of women felt uncomfortable about asking for time off to look after a sick child, compared with only one in five men. One in seven women admitted that if her child was sick she would claim to be unwell herself rather than take a day's holiday or explain the position.

Four out of 10 women had difficulty in asking for more family-friendly working hours, whereas only 29 per cent of men said they found it difficult.