The Minister for Women & Equalities, Liz Truss, has called on employers to make flexible working the standard as the UK recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her statement follows the publication of research by the Government-backed Behavioural Insights Team and Indeed, the job website, which found job adverts that explicitly offered flexible working options saw up to 30% more applications than adverts that did not mention it.
These findings indicate that job hunters are keen for flexible working to continue once the lockdown restrictions come to an end.
The research also found that by introducing a prompt for employers placing a job advert to consider whether the role could be offered on a flexible basis, the number of roles that were advertised as flexible increased by 20%, suggesting employers too are considering its potential benefits.
The wider introduction of flexible working has been discussed for some time, well before the disruption caused by the pandemic. There already exists the right for employees with 26 weeks’ service to request a flexible working arrangement, and the Government in its 2019 manifesto pledged to consult on making flexible working the default for all roles. Given that 40% of employees worked from home during 2020, it is possible that post-Covid the Government will push on with this proposed consultation.
The benefits of flexible working are well-known; an improved work/life balance, increased productivity, and less chance of employees suffering from stress and burn out. In addition, as highlighted by the Minister for Women & Equalities, flexible working is particularly beneficial for women, who often have the majority of childcare responsibilities, and advertising roles as flexible could be a useful tool to begin addressing inequality in the workplace.
The impact on women of advertising vacancies as flexible was recently highlighted in a report by the BIT and Zurich, the insurance company, who found that by advertising all roles as flexible it saw a 20% increase in the number of women applying for senior roles.
Both reports show the potential positive impact advertising a role as flexible may have on recruitment in future. With those who are job hunting likely to look for flexible working options going forward, employers who offer this option may benefit from a much wider pool of talent to recruit from.
Expectations around how and where work can be done has changed significantly over the last year. As the job market begins to recover and businesses once again start recruiting, it is likely that flexible working will remain an important consideration for job seekers and companies alike in future.