Flexible working has plateaued, study finds

Flexible working

The number of people using flexible working arrangements has flatlined since 2010, despite the right to request flexibility being extended to all employees since 2014.

This finding is contained in a report launched today by the CIPD, Megatrends: Flexible Working, released in co-ordination with a campaign to boost the numbers of people working part time, in job shares, term time, or in compressed hours.

The Flexible Working Task Force, which is behind the campaign, is a partnership across government departments, business groups, trade unions and charities, and will encourage employers to advertise jobs as flexible by using the strapline Happy to Talk Flexible Working in their job advertisements, regardless of level or pay grade.

The report suggests there has been a rise in more informal flexible working, such as more people working from home on an ad hoc basis, but according to the CIPD far more flexibility could be implemented.

Opportunities are being missed because of unsupportive manager attitudes, limited available options and the negative assumptions of some employees about flexible working, for example that their job may be at risk if they seek to change their working patterns.

As part of its efforts to increase uptake, the task force is highlighting the business benefits of flexible working which include:

  • Addressing skill and labour shortages by making work more accessible to older people and those with caring responsibilities, for example
  • Improving productivity by increasing employee motivation
  • Boosting job satisfaction, engagement and well-being, while also helping to reduce sickness absence
  • Helping organisations to retain staff, particularly those with caring responsibilities
  • Creating more diverse workforces which reduces the gender pay gap by giving more opportunities for women to progress into senior roles.

All members of the task force, co-chaired by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the CIPD, have committed to advertising jobs as flexible. Members include the Confederation of British Industry, Chartered Management Institute, Federation of Small Businesses, Trades Union Congress, Age UK, Carers UK, Timewise Foundation, Working Families, Acas, the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Treasury.

The task force has also published guidance for employers on how to champion flexible working in their own organisations.

Kelly Tolhurst, business minister, said the government was committed to enhancing the quality of work and improving workers’ rights. She said: “Working flexibly gives employers access to a wider pool of talent and enables better matching of applicants and jobs. To build on our upgrade [of workers’ rights], we will also be considering a duty for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, and to make that clear when advertising a vacancy.”

For Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive and co-chair of the Flexible Working Task Force, employers needed to dismantle barriers preventing them from adopting flexible work more widely, “be it entrenched organisational cultures or making sure line managers are trained to support and manage flexible workers”.

He added: “By encouraging many more jobs to be advertised as flexible as the default option, the task force is challenging outdated attitudes to flexible working that still prevail in some organisations and laying down a marker for other employers to follow.”

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