Mums In A Jam

Many mothers now spend more than three extra working weeks each year just travelling to and from work - with those in London and the South East often enduring twice that.

That means commuting could be making them miss out on valuable time with their children - the commodity that the majority of mums claim they would value most as a Mother’s Day gift.

Despite this, many mums with children under six are still unaware that they have the right to ask their employers for more flexible working practices* - which could improve their lives and relieve road congestion, while many small employers also maintain that they are ignorant of the legislation.

With Mother’s Day on Sunday (26), the RAC Foundation is claiming that flexible working practices could hold the key to making many mums happier at work and home as well as making a substantial contribution to reducing rush hour jams.

The Foundation would now like to see more firms offering flexible working hours or full or partial home working to parents of young children and also extending the right to all parents of dependent children and to the UK’s six million carers, as a means of further tackling the country’s worsening peak time congestion.

Only three per cent of women currently work at home and a further five per cent spend one day or more each week doing so in the UK. Another ten per cent could, in theory, do so. Many more could, with the co-operation of their employer, vary their working hours to ensure that they reduce the amount of time that they spend on the road.

According to the RAC Foundation research in “Motors or Modems”, flexible working could potentially cut the worst peak traffic by up to ten per cent within five years. Achieving a reduction of this size in commuting, business travel, shopping and personal business trips would save 14.5 billion miles a year. This equates to 17 million cars foregoing a trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats or about three years’ growth in car and taxi traffic at today’s rates.

BT, one of the chief proponents of flexible working, claims to have saved employees the equivalent of 1,800 years of commuting time and has also achieved a happier workforce - BT home-based employees are seven per cent more content than office based peers. This has had a significant effect on the environment, with the same BT employees that are saving thousands of hours in commuting time also eliminating 47,400 tonnes of CO2 travel-related emissions.

Sue Nicholson, Head of Campaigns for the RAC Foundation said:

“The whole culture of working long hours in the UK has to change if we are to achieve a better work-life balance - we work longer and travel for longer than other Europeans. That emphasis has to change to working smarter.

“There are significant spin-off benefits to this as well. If each employee could work from home just one day per week, or adopt a flexible working pattern that avoids peak hours, we would see a cut in traffic, equivalent to removing the school run. Today's technology is better and cheaper so more employees have the chance to work from home occasionally.

“Even those essential workers who will never have the choice of working from home may be able to negotiate more flexible working patterns and for those whose job makes this impossible - then at least by removing some of the congestion, it may make their journey a bit easier.

“Women are missing chunks of their kids’ lives by sitting in traffic jams. More flexibility from companies and workers could result in more use of the superhighway and less congestion on the real highway.”

25 March 2006 Staff

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