Access to Flexible Working and Informal Care

Mark Bryan
University of Essex, UK

Flexible working is often advocated as a way to help people combine paid work with informal care. This paper uses matched employer-employee data to explore the relationship between employees’ access to flexible working arrangements and the amount of informal care they provide to sick or elderly friends and relatives. Out of a range of flexible working practices, flexitime and the ability to reduce working hours are each associated with about 10% more hours of informal care. The ability to reduce working hours appears to facilitate care mainly among full-time workers, while flexitime time seems to help mainly with small amounts of care. We reject that workers needing to provide care sort into flexible jobs or that firms respond to the presence of carers by providing flexible work, but flexible jobs are associated with other aspects of the working environment that facilitate care provision. The results suggests that while flexible work makes a small contribution to reconciling work and care, it is unlikely to have a substantial effect on the amount of care provided, or to encourage labour market participation by non-working carers.

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