Why Flexible Working Isn’t Flexible for All

Some 90 percent of respondents said their companies offer more benefits or benefits of higher value to employees who have tied the knot, according to a survey of U.S. HR decision-makers.

Is flexible work provision flexible for all? Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ninety percent of workers said that allowing more flexible work arrangements and schedules would increase employee morale. Another study found that the overwhelming majority of workers thought that a flexible job would improve their lives across the board—from helping them take better care of themselves to freeing up more time to spend with loved ones.

There is a huge demand for flexible work—this was true even prior to the pandemic and now is even more necessary as we continue to work through it—yet employers don’t always recognize that these benefits should be offered universally. Research reveals that prior to the pandemic, organizations typically offered more flexibility and paid time off (PTO) to married employees. This survey of 300 U.S. HR decision-makers took a closer look at how marital status can influence employee benefits. The results were eye-opening: Some 90 percent said their companies offer more benefits or benefits of higher value to employees who have tied the knot. But while married life is wonderful for those who want it, marriage rates are declining. It’s time for businesses to realign their benefits strategy and make some important changes.

Time Is Literally Money

It seems that those who are married benefit financially from more than just tax perks.

On average, married couples are entitled to 3.6 more days of PTO per year than single employees. This is significant when you consider that the U.S. median household income is approximately $217 per working day. So for married employees, time is literally money as they enjoy $775 more in PTO value every year. And that’s just one of the additional benefitsmore than a third of companies offer enhanced benefits to those who are married.

Extending Flexibility to All

This extends to flexible working hours. More than 40 percent of those surveyed limit their flexible working hours to employees who are legally married.

Benefits are a great way for organizations to show that they value all employees equally. Outside of money, better benefits and a flexible work environment are the leading reasons people switch jobs. The latter can be invaluable in providing a work-life balance that meets the needs of each individual employee. In addition to a happier workforce, employers might experience increased productivity after switching to a four-day workweek. For example, Microsoft Japan tested a four-day workweek and recorded an almost 40 percent jump in productivity levels after cutting its work hours as part of a wider project to promote a healthier work-life balance.

Serving All Employees Equally


Marriage can be a big, life-changing event for many individuals, but almost half of Americans are single. More organizations need to understand that benefits that meet the requirements of all employees are imperative to providing an individual, equal, and fair offering to everyone, no matter their marital status. More than 60 percent of HR decision-makers agree that it’s unfair that colleagues without legal partners don’t receive the same flexible benefits as those who are married. Further, 83 percent agree or strongly agree that “All employees should have access to personalized benefits that suit them best.”

As more organizations catch on, employees will reap the benefits of a more flexible working environment. They’ll feel more supported by their employers and less interested in searching for other opportunities. And surely that’s something every business is aiming for?

Chris Bruce is the co-founder and managing director of Thomsons Online Benefits, a global benefits management and employee engagement software company that also provides consultancy services related to rewards, workplace pensions, and employee benefit programs. He has been in the benefits industry for more than 20 years. Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for all things Darwin, his main focus is on the development of new markets and engagement with global clients. He loves meeting with CHROs and reward leaders to support them in staying one step ahead of the rapidly changing benefits landscape. For more information, visit https://www.thomsons.com/

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