More than a quarter of UK workers aged between 45 and 54 who work with other people think their employers put their colleagues who have children or families first.
The finding comes from a survey of 1,175 working adults with colleagues by YouGov for Croner.
Under employment legislation employees who have children have the statutory right to ask to work flexibly, a right that is denied to people who no longer have - or who never had - family commitments. Croner asked the survey's respondents whether their company puts the needs of employees who have children or families over the rest of the work force: in the 45-54 age group 18% agreed and 9% strongly agreed.
The survey shows a large variation of opinion by region. Overall, people in the survey who live in Scotland are far less likely to agree that their employer puts the needs of those with children or families first (just 14% agree, or strongly agree) compared with Yorkshire and the Humber, where 32% agree or strongly agree.
Carol Smith, senior employment consultant at Croner, said: "There is no doubt that flexible working for people with families is a good thing. The Government has done much to improve and modernise UK legislation so that more people can work flexibly to improve their work-life balance. However it is not good news for the UK's older workers after the Government shelved plans to extend flexible working."
Plans to extend flexible working to all workers were announced in May 2011 when the government launched a consultation on modern workplaces. According to the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, the Government will publish its response in spring 2012. But the Government has now cancelled all plans to extend flexible working.
"In spite of the absence of extended flexible working legislation, Croner recommends that employers should have flexible working policies that do not disadvantage other groups within their workforce," added Smith.
"This will not only help to avoid possible workplace conflict but improve employee relations, help with recruitment and retaining staff and almost certainly improve productivity.
"Organisations should begin by carefully considering what they want to achieve. They should review how work is currently organised and what flexible options are available that could make this change. It is important to consult employees and customers on the planned changes to ensure they understand that there will be a possible change to people's working patterns."
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