With over 5 million people in the UK now choosing to work part time in their career, pursuing the goal of a flexible, yet still high-earning, career is now an easier task. But make sure you get the right careers advice before embarking on this career path.
Senior lawyers, finance directors and chief executives are among those opting for part-time careers, turning traditional career concepts upside down. It is now more acceptable for those in more senior positions to request flexibility in their careers, although the extent of their hours is not always publicised to the rest of the workforce.
While the impact of flexible working for parents continues to be felt, it is not just working mums that are causing the shift. Karen Mattison MBE, the co-founder of Timewise, a recruitment service specialising in skilled part-time career paths, explains: “Thirty per cent of our candidates are not mothers, and this figure is growing. Some are dads; high-earners who can live on a reduced salary. There are lots of different groups of people who might want to have part-time careers. Coping with children is just one of the reasons.”
“Some people are taking part-time careers because they want to set up their own business, go freelance, or need time to care for elderly relatives; for some it is a lifestyle choice,” says Ms Mattison. “People feel like they would rather have the time than the extra income that his career path affords.”
The last recession had an impact, with employers turning to senior workers to cut costs by moving to a part time career. This has made going part time more accessible, and lets businesses realise the benefits of such workers. As Ms Mattison continues, “It enables employers to retain their senior staff. Growing businesses, or those cutting costs, can still access high-level talents on a part-time basis, which they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.”
However, those part timers might not want the rest of the staff to know their working hours in detail. According to a Timewise study, more than a third would never use the word “part-time” to describe their work pattern and one in seven prefers to let colleagues assume that they have full-time careers. The negative connotations of ‘part time’ for colleagues, clients and customers can often mean that the employee doesn’t feel that they are taken as seriously as full timers, and can leave clients feeling that their needs aren’t being met 24/7.
But times are changing, and businesses are seeing the benefits of part time careers, particularly in senior positions. This can create more opportunities for those in the roles to pursue career change, looking at their own lifestyle, mentoring school leavers and much more, while allowing the businesses themselves to benefit from knowledge and experience with a reduction in cost.