Flexible working unavailable for nearly half of staff

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A renewed campaign to make the right to request flexible working available from an employee’s first day at work has been launched by the CIPD, after it found flexible working was not an option for 46% of workers.

It found a significant proportion of staff did not have access to arrangements such as flexi-time, part-time working, compressed hours or job shares in the their current role. A fifth said they work for organisations that do not offer any flexible working arrangements.

Just 30% of the 2,133 employers surveyed by the CIPD are planning to increase the uptake of other forms of flexible working besides home working over the next six to 12 months, while 47% nearly plan to enable more home and hybrid working over the same period.

However, many key workers have not had the opportunity to work from home over the past 10 months of the pandemic; 44% have not worked from home at all, 92% of whom say the nature of their job does not allow them to.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said: “While many have hailed the pandemic as a driver for the adoption of flexible working practices, particularly around home working, the reality for many is that this is not the case.

“We need a new understanding about what flexible working is and we need employers to embrace flexible working arrangements beyond home working, to give opportunity and choice to all. Employees may not always be able to change where they work, but they should have more choice and a say in when and how they work.”

Three-quarters of the 2,127 employees polled agree that it is important that people who cannot work from home can work flexibly in other ways.

As well as calling on employers to embed flexible working practices into their organisations, the CIPD’s Flex From First campaign also calls on the government to enshrine in law the right to request flexible working from the day an employee’s contract begins, and for employers to stipulate that jobs can be done flexibly in adverts.

The campaign encourages firms to collaborate with employees to find mutually beneficial flexible working solutions in order to boost job satisfaction, work-life balance, staff retention and productivity.

We need a new understanding about what flexible working is and we need employers to embrace flexible working arrangements beyond home working” – Peter Cheese, CIPD

The CIPD is among numerous organisations, MPs and trade unions who have repeatedly called for flexible working to become a day-one right. Currently, employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible to make a statutory application for flexible working.

“Being able to build in flexible working arrangements, such as changes to hours, term-time working or job shares, will empower people to have greater control and flexibility in their working life. This is good for inclusion and opening up opportunities to people who have other constraints in being able to work standard hour weeks or in getting to a place of work,” said Cheese.

London housing association Peabody is among the organisations increasing access to flexible working opportunities. Staff can agree working arrangements with their line managers and team, rather than having to make a formal flexible working request through HR.

“Flexible working is very important to us, that is why our newly relaunched people strategy has been developed based on what our people have told us matters to them,” said Peabody’s HR director Andrea Gordon.

“Our ambition is to deliver a new approach that will bring a better work-life balance, increased performance and productivity, more fulfilling roles, a more diverse employee population, better physical and mental wellbeing and increased employee engagement. Ultimately, this is how we will achieve our group strategy and business goals.”

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