What’s your company’s position on flexible working? Do you offer it proactively, even for new starters, because you believe it’s good for business? Or do you take a more reactive approach, responding to requests from existing employees and not much more?
If you’re one of the former, that’s good to hear – but new figures confirm that you’re in the minority. At Timewise, we publish an annual Flexible Jobs Index, tracking the proportion of jobs which are advertised as being flexible puts that figure at just 15%, and while the trend is upwards – it stood at just 9.5% in 2015 – the pace of change is slow.
Yet, in contrast to the limited supply of flexible roles, the demand is sky-high. Our research has indicated that 87% of UK employees either work flexibly already or want to. That’s quite a gap.
Three key insights that employers shouldn’t ignore
There are several reasons why this matters. From a big-picture perspective, the business case for flexible working is well-established. It’s been shown to support talent attraction and retention, improve productivity, health and wellbeing (and so combat absenteeism), drive inclusivity and close the gender pay gap.
And digging deeper into the data from this year’s Flexible Jobs Index, there are three specific insights that forward-looking employers should consider:
- While the highest salary bracket (over £80K FTE) has the fastest rate of growth, these roles are more likely to be advertised as ‘flexible’ rather than ‘part-time’. Senior-level part-time roles remain elusive – which can lead to a cap on progression for key employee groups, particularly women.
- There’s a cliff-edge between the number of jobs paying less than £20K FTE which are advertised as flexible (23%) and those paying between £20K and £34K FTE (14%). This severely limits opportunities for low-paid workers to progress, which in turn makes it harder for employers to build inclusive workplaces in which all employees can thrive.
- There are big discrepancies between the availability and growth of flexible opportunities in different sectors. So a tailored approach, which works within and overcomes the cultural biases and operational constraints of a specific sector, is what’s needed.
Reshaping the flexible jobs market to get the best out of the modern workforce won’t happen overnight – however, depending on the outcome of the government consultation on proposals to support families, it may be something you need to tackle sooner rather than later. But employers who rise to the challenge and offer part-time and flexible jobs at all levels have an opportunity to become employers of choice. In an era of skills shortages and market uncertainty, that’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be ignored.
CBI members can find plenty more practical advice on how to make a difference on diversity and inclusion, in My CBI's Ideas Forum.