Make flexibility fair: CIPD launches new campaign

The professional body for HR and people development, the CIPD, is encouraging employers to support flexible working for all, including those ‘locked out’ of homeworking during the pandemic.

Image of person opening door to home
The CIPD’s new campaign, #FlexFrom1st, seeks to support employers make work more flexible, fair and inclusive for everyone, including people who have had no choice but to go to their workplaces during the past year of lockdowns.The CIPD is also asking the Government to change the law to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right for all employees. Currently, employees can only make a request for flexible working after 26 weeks of employment, limited to one request every 12 months.The CIPD’s campaign is backed by research that reports a significant minority of the UK workforce risks being locked out of opportunities to work flexibly, including from home.The research also found that employers aren’t offering the type of flexible working arrangements employees would like, despite the benefits for productivity and inclusive practice.

Has the pandemic really changed working practices?

Perhaps surprisingly, the CIPD found that almost half (44%) of the 2,000 respondents to the survey have not worked from home at all since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, mainly because of the nature of their job role (92%). The survey further reports that 41% employees believe it unfair that some people can work from home while others have to continue to attend their place of work and have little flexibility in how they work. “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,” comments Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD.“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.”“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."

Addressing widening workplace inequalities

The CIPD believes UK employees are “facing inequality due to a stark difference in employers’ approaches to flexible working”. Nearly half (46%) of employees say they do not have access to flexible working arrangements, like flexi-time, part-time working, compressed hours or job shares, in their current role.The CIPD’s study further reports that around a fifth (19%) of employees say they work for organisations that do not offer any flexible working arrangements.Yet among the sample, three-quarters (75%) of respondents agree that it is important people who can’t work from home can work flexibly in other ways.
However, with 47% of organisations surveyed planning to take steps to enable more home and hybrid working in the next six to 12 months, this could leave a significant proportion of the UK workforce locked out of opportunities to work flexibly. Only 30% of the 2,000 employers surveyed are planning to try to increase the uptake of other forms of flexible working besides home working over the next six to 12 months. 

Building fairness back into the workplace

“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,” continues Peter Cheese.“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. But it’s also good for people's wellbeing and productivity. Fairness of opportunity in working flexibly ensures organisations do not end up with divisions or a two-tier workforce.” The CIPD is encouraging organisations to work in collaboration with their employees to find flexible solutions that are mutually beneficial. The CIPD’s research shows there is a significant gap between the arrangements employees currently use compared to those that they would use if offered.Flexi-time is currently used by 21% of employees, yet desired by 39%. For part-time hours (4 days or less), this approach is currently used by 19%, yet desired by 28%. Just 3% of employees reported that they currently use compressed hours (working full-time hours in fewer days), while 19% would use this arrangement if available.

Flexibility, fairness, inclusion and productivity

Employees who have flexibility report significantly higher levels of satisfaction with their job, work-life balance and control over their work. In addition, when businesses embrace flexible working they will reap the benefits through increased productivity, employee retention and attracting diverse talent when recruiting.

Peabody, a London housing association, is currently overhauling its approach to flexible working and removing the process of formal flexible working requests. Instead, its employees will be empowered to agree flexible working arrangements with their line managers and team, rather than making a formal request through HR. 
Andrea Gordon, Director of HR at Peabody explains, “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.“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. We fully support the CIPD’s Flex From 1st campaign as we believe everyone should have a right to request flexible working from day one.”

Think Women is here to support women to flourish and help shape inclusive workplaces. To register for a place on our 5 March virtual event to celebrate International Women's Day, please email or call +44 (0)1892 891334.

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