Government-backed campaign renews push for flexible working

The broad coalition of business bodies represented in the government’s Flexible Working Taskforce today unveils a new campaign for all jobs to be advertised as flexible from day one.

Flexible working definition in textbook with bottom line financial figures
The employer-targeted campaign, which has the tagline "Happy to Talk Flexible Working," coincides with new research from taskforce member the CIPD showing the take-up of flexible working has flatlined over the past decade. Despite the right to request flexible working being extended to all employees in 2014, Megatrends: Flexible Working shows the number of employees using formal flexible working arrangements – such as part-time working, term-time working, compressed hours and job-sharing – has not increased in almost a decade. However, the study did find strong evidence of an increase in more informal flexible working, such as more people working from home on an ad hoc basis. 

Employee-led demand for more flexibility

Static provision of flexible working practices suggests employers are not meeting the strong demand suggested in the studies that show high support for more flexible working practices among the working population. Within global mobility and employees working in global teams and across international borders, this issue is also likely to resonate following new research. A new study shows close to three-quarters of internationally mobile individuals are unhappy with their work-life balance and about the impact of their working patterns on their health and family.More equal access to flexible working has also been linked to more equal progression for men and women and therefore to balancing the gender pay gap. 
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Being bolder about being flexible

The Flexible Working Taskforce, established last March to widen the availability and uptake of flexible working, believes the increase in less formal flexible practices can be the balance that workers are looking for, especially in a tight market for skills.However, there is also consensus among the group around an opportunity for employers to go further and be bolder in their commitment to flexible work for all, supporting the goal of "good work" for all proposed by Matthew Taylor in his Modern Working Practices Review and adopted by the government in recent amendments to employment law.To make this happen, and for employers and employees to be able to fully realise the benefits of flexible working, the Taskforce is addressing obstacles like unsupportive manager attitudes, limited options and the negative assumptions around flexible working through advice and guidance.To further raise awareness and bolster support for flexible working, taskforce members – which  include the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Chartered Management Institute (CMI), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Trades Union Congress (TUC), Age UK, Carers UK, Timewise Foundation, Working Families, Acas, the CIPD, the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Treasury – are also committing to advertising all job, regardless of level or pay grade, as flexible by using the Happy to Talk Flexible Working strapline in their job advertisements.

‘Challenging outdated attitudes’

Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive and co-chair of the Flexible Working Task Force, said:“Providing more flexible opportunities for how, when and where people work should be part of every organisation’s strategy to attract and retain the talent and skills they need.  “Employers need to consider, and address, the barriers holding them back from adopting flexible working practices more widely – be it entrenched organisational cultures or making sure line managers are trained to support and manage flexible workers. “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.”

The business case for flexible working

The taskforce is also highlighting the business benefits of flexible working which include:
  1. Addressing skill and labour shortages by making work more accessible to older people and those with caring responsibilities, for example 
  2. Improving productivity by increasing employee motivation 
  3. Boosting job satisfaction, engagement and well-being, while also helping to reduce sickness absence
  4. Helping organisations to retain staff, particularly those with caring responsibilities
  5. Creating more diverse workforces which reduces the gender pay gap by giving more opportunities for women to progress into senior roles.
Kelly Tolhurst, business minister, said: “Working flexibly helps people to balance their work and home lives and is vital in creating an inclusive economy and diverse workforce. It also gives employers access to a wider pool of talent and enables better matching of applicants and jobs.“The government is committed to enhancing the quality of work, which is why we have recently set out major workplace reforms to give millions of workers, including flexible workers, new rights and protections.“To build on this upgrade, 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.“We want to ensure the UK continues to lead the world in addressing the challenges of the changing world of work and the Flexible Working Task Force plays a valuable role in this endeavour, with a great forum through which we can make flexible working a reality for all employees.”Head to our HR section for more news and insight.  
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