In the heady days of 2015 (a year after the Flexible Working request legislation was introduced) I presented to a group of HR professionals on the business case for Flexible Working and Flexible Hiring. Back in 2015 less than 7% of advertised ‘quality’ job roles (i.e. roles with a salary of £20k+ FTE) stated that flexible working would be considered for applicants. This was despite c. 48% of people wanting/needing flexible working.
Yesterday, whilst researching for the Pay Equality Seminar we’re holding, I decided to see where flexible working attitudes have got to in 2018. Although the good news is that the number has increased, the bad news is this has been meagre. A mere 11% of advertised roles now state an ‘openness’ to flexible working. More astounding is that in that 3-year timeframe, demand has nearly doubled: apparently 87% of people now want or need flexible working.
This glacial increase both exacerbates the GPG and acts as a ‘skills drain’. Our UK GPG remains stubbornly high despite 40+ years of the Equality Act. Obviously it is not just female employees who need or want flexible working, yet it is mothers who remain disproportionately disadvantaged by lack of flexible working opportunities. And it gets worse at higher salary levels. Here the availability of flexible jobs actually decreases.
Why does lack of flexible working have such an effect on the GPG? Well, if you lose women at the mid-stage of their career because of lack of flexible opportunities, you’ll probably lose them for good.
They will take a lesser paid role or one they’re less qualified for, just to get the flexibility they need. Then they’ll get ‘stuck’. It’s hard to progress internally (and as the above figures show incredibly difficult externally) when you need flexibility. There are simply not enough flexible roles out there for mothers (or anyone else it seems). Their skills will leave the market, perhaps never to return.
The UK needs more businesses to take an improved approach to job design and then to build flexible career paths. These will motivate and support women to progress their careers, promoting roles (both internal and external) to be open to flexible working.
Businesses of all sizes need to start asking “how can this role be done flexibly?” – instead of assuming “this role can’t be done flexibly”. Where it is apparent that it can be, can they please make this clear in their recruitment advertising? It will be a real differentiator and a chance to hire brains that other organisations have let go down the drain. This is the approach that we have always taken at Menzies Law, and we have done very well indeed as a result.
Business Development Consultant
Email or call 0117 325 0928.
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