Could job sharing help minimise the parent penalty in senior roles?

Guest blog by Sara Allen, senior strategist and job share expert for Further & More.

The parent penalty is a curious feature of modern work – talented, highly experienced senior staff in whom employers have invested time and training walk away from well-paid, senior roles once they have kids.

It’s equally frustrating for parents, and employers, alike. Replacing staff is expensive, costing around 75% of a year’s salary; and it’s time-consuming. Yet with no clear route to making parenting and ambition work alongside one another, something has had to give, so that 75% of those surveyed said they had moderated their long-term career goals when they had children, and only 34% felt their current working pattern would allow them to achieve their goals .

No-one is winning.



The most common response – part-time or flexi hours – can work.

However, we’ve all experienced the frustration of scrambling to meet client needs or sudden deadlines when a key team member isn’t in. It’s particularly acute in senior roles, where jobs aren’t 9-5, and client expectations don’t disappear on a Friday afternoon.

Put simply, there’s a tension between jobs which simply can’t be done part-time, and the huge numbers of highly trained, ambitious and talented people who can’t work full time.



Job-sharing resolves this tension is a way which no other working pattern can.

Job-sharing is when two people jointly deliver a full-time role. It means genuinely part-time hours for the sharers, but everyone else – team, manager, colleagues, board, stakeholders and clients – gets a full-time service. It’s usually articulated as a type of flexible working, but at Further&More, we’re clear that it is another version of full-time. But it’s one which significantly widens the talent pool.


Diversity is good for everyone

This isn’t about being kind, or doing the right thing. This is about clear, commercial decisions. The bottom line is “companies with the highest percentile of women on their boards outperformed those in the lowest percentile by 53% higher return on equity, 42% higher return on sales, and 66% higher return on invested capital.” But without a diverse talent pipeline, it’s tough to achieve. And the new gender pay gap reporting requirements make a diverse, talented team even more important.


Two is the magic number

But it’s not just about working patterns and diversity: job-sharing is a brilliant workforce option. When hiring job share pairs, employers get two brilliant brains for the price of one. The best job sharers bring a breadth of skills and experience which is greater than any individual employer can bring to the table. Innovation and creativity go up, productivity goes up (about 30%), continuity goes up.


Full-time powers, part-time hours

There is a huge pool of brilliantly talented and experienced people who offer employers a significant market edge – people who have already stepped out of work, or who have plateaued, unable to see how to progress and still achieving home-work balance.

But there is also a generation of grads who are making decisions about where to work based on the long-game: our survey result shows that, despite increasing conversations about flexible working, the newer entrants into the workplace do not show increased confidence in achieving their career goals. For a pipeline of senior talent, flexible work isn’t working. And the employers who can send a clear signal that grads can have a career in which they achieve their potential and fulfil their ambitions regardless of their parenting decisions, will attract the very best.

Job-sharing is vital to the future of work. It’s time to make it business as usual.


About the author

Sara Allen was a Senior Civil Servant, working in the Cabinet Office, and for a range of Senior Ministers and the Cabinet Secretary.

Her high profile projects included leading the Department of Health’s Dementia Innovation Unit, which delivered the Prime Minister’s vision to re-set the operating environment for dementia drug development.

Sara is the founder of Further&More, the leading job share experts: their mission is to make job-sharing easy. They are working with a range of employers, from FTSEs to start-ups, SMEs and NGOs. They have built a ground-breaking matching tool and are growing a movement around a vision of the future of work.



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