Flexible Working Week

This week is ‘Flexible working week’ in the UK but many businesses across Scotland are still missing out on the benefits that flexibility can bring to their organisations.

A lack of flexible working is one of the key causes of the gender pay gap. Women are more likely to have caring responsibilities for children, sick relatives, disabled people, or older people, and therefore have to secure flexible working in order to balance work with family and caring responsibilities. The problem is that quality part-time and flexible working is difficult to find, particularly at senior levels. As a result, many women are working below their skill level in undervalued, low-paid jobs in which part-time work predominates. Part-time workers are also often perceived as less committed, less ambitious, and less productive than their colleagues who work full-time. This lack of visible role models working flexibly in senior jobs means that many people are reluctant to breach the subject of flexible working with their employer for fear of it damaging their career. However, many women are concerned of what will happen to their career path if they work part-time, or ask to work flexibly, because of a lack of visibility of role models at senior levels doing this.

More often than not, jobs are advertised without mentioning that flexible working may be available. This acts as a barrier to women applying, and therefore makes it more difficult for those women who are trying to progress and those who want to work in male-dominated sectors where flexible working is less likely to be available. Recent research published by Timewise found that only 6% of job adverts offered flexible working with this percentage decreasing, as salary increases, to only 2% for senior positions. The research also found that almost half of employees now want flexibility in their work life, but 42% of respondents were concerned that asking for flexibility would damage their career prospects.

Flexible working not only benefits employees but also businesses. BT has implemented a range of flexible working arrangements since the 1990s and has found a 54% improvement in productivity, a 63% reduction in absenteeism, and a retention rate of 99% for staff returning from maternity leave. BT also reported a rise in staff satisfaction and motivation, and savings on recruitment and training costs.

Close the Gap has developed an online tool to enable smaller employers to enable smaller employers to assess their employment policies and practice in areas such as flexible working. Find out more about how your business can benefit from flexible working by the Think Business Think Equality test.

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