Flexible working being used by one-fifth of employers to avoid job cuts, survey shows

One-fifth of organisations have avoided redundancies by introducing flexible working practices, a survey has shown.

Two-thirds of employers that introduced part-time hours or other forms of flexible working during the recession have managed to cut costs, while a similar number say it has helped reduce the number of jobs lost, the 2010 IRS Flexible Working Survey, published exclusively by XpertHR today, has found.

The study of 162 organisations found a further one-quarter have used, or are about to use, flexible working to reduce compulsory job losses.

Charlotte Wolff, XpertHR employment editor, said: “The research includes several interesting examples of how employers are using flexible working to cut costs.

“For instance, two councils have specifically expanded the use of homeworking, mobile working and hot-desking, so they can reduce the number of workstations they need. The aim at one of these public sector organisations is to achieve a ratio of three employees to two desks, thereby reducing the amount of accommodation they need and allowing them to release some capital.”

Among the 33 organisations that have already implemented a cost-cutting flexible working scheme, a reduction in hours is by far the most common, with all but one using this method. This is followed by temporarily reduced hours (22 organisations), unpaid sabbaticals (18), and job-sharing schemes (16).

The majority (84%) of the 147 schemes are voluntary for employees, but 12% are compulsory.

Other cost-cutting arrangements include an 18-month job-sharing scheme, reduced working weeks, and the promotion of ‘holiday purchase’ at a large company.

However, public sector managers have not been as keen as those in other sectors to use flexible working to reduce costs. Whereas 26% of manufacturing and production companies, and 24% of other private sector companies, have implemented a scheme, just 9% of public sector organisations have done so.

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