Flexible working options are on the increase

Flexible working provision is on the increase, according to recent research by Personnel Today’s sister publication IRS Employment Review.

The survey of 111 employers – covering 537,600 staff – showed that homeworking, flexi-time, job-sharing and compressed hours are all significantly more likely to be available now than they were five years ago.

A comparison with its 2004 flexible working survey showed that homeworking was offered by 36% of the employers surveyed, compared with 65% in this year’s survey. Job-sharing has risen from being offered by 48% of employers in 2004, to 61%, while flexi-time has increased from 38% to 51%, and the percentage offering compressed working hours has risen from 23% in 2004, to 39% in 2009. However, part-time hours were still the most common arrangement, available at 96% of the organisations surveyed.

Just under half (48%) of the employers reported a rise in the number of staff working flexibly over the past two years. Reasons included an increased number of requests (32%); a more relaxed attitude towards flexible working in the organisation (23%); legislation (18%); and a greater need to cut costs (8%).

The recession has played a significant role in increasing the use of flexible working. More than a quarter (27%) of the employers surveyed had considered introducing additional flexible working practices in the past 12 months in a bid to avoid redundancies. Of that number, 40% had introduced a scheme, while 30% intended to do so.

The survey showed that 18% of the workforce currently used flexible arrangements such as part-time working, flexible hours, homeworking or sabbaticals.

Requests to work flexibly, irrespective of whether or not the employees were eligible for the right to make the request, were considered by 80% of employers.

Among the public sector organisations, 97% considered flexible working requests from any employee, compared with 77% of private sector services companies, and 71% of those in manufacturing and production.

Only 13 respondents (12%) only considered requests from employees who had the statutory right to do so.

The main benefits of flexible working were improved retention (74%) and employee commitment (67%), while resentment from other staff was reported as a problem (42%). Just 7% of employers were affected by increased costs as a result of implementing flexible working.

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