Three-quarters of job descriptions still failing to offer flexible working

Ads mentioning flexibility increased just 5 percentage points after lockdown, as experts warn new ways of working are not being reflected in the recruitment process

More than three-quarters of job adverts this year made no mention of flexible working, research has found, suggesting recruitment practices are not keeping up with the changing way of working created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Analysis of more than six million job vacancies posted between December 2019 and October 2020 found that 78 per cent did not mention any form of flexible working, including job sharing, part-time hours or late starts.

In contrast, the Timewise Flexible Jobs Index found there had been a minimal increase in the number of roles advertised as flexible since the pandemic took hold. In 2019, 15 per cent of jobs were advertised as flexible, rising to 19 per cent in the three months to 23 March, just before the first lockdown.

After the first lockdown, this had increased to just 22 per cent – 5 percentage points higher than the previous year.

There was also evidence that much of this flexibility was temporary and only offered until coronavirus related restrictions were lifted. Out of a sample of 1,000 jobs that did offer home working, more than half (52 per cent) said they would revert to office jobs when possible. Just 36 per cent said home working would be permanent, with another 12 per cent unsure or unclear.

Among the HR jobs analysed, three-quarters (74 per cent) made no mention of flexible working. And of the quarter (26 per cent) of roles that did offer flexible options, only half mentioned home working.

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Emma Stewart, CEO of Timewise, said those who needed flexible working were at risk of being excluded from the labour market. “Women, carers, older workers and those with health concerns are currently at the greatest risk of becoming ‘flexcluded’ from work, as new ways of working fail to be reflected in employers’ recruitment advertising,” she said, adding that this was a particular problem in the HR profession, where 80 per cent of professionals were women.

“The jobs market neither matches how people are working, who they are, nor what they want,” said Stewart. “HR as a profession should be taking a lead on getting this right… We have a real opportunity as we rebuild the economy to finally create a level playing field for the millions for whom flex is now both a necessity and an expectation.”

Commenting on the report, Neil Carberry, CEO of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said flexible working was vital to creating an inclusive economic recovery. “It’s great for businesses too, giving employers potential to build a more engaged and diverse workforce, which is essential for long-term success,” he added.

Danny Harmer, chief people officer at Aviva, which supported the report, said the pandemic had “[busted] some of the myths” around home working, and called on businesses to consider what would create the best outcomes for their staff and their customers. “Allowing people to work flexibly in terms of where, how and when they work, and articulating this in job adverts, helps organisations attract a wider range of talent,” she said.

“Flexible working can have a positive effect on wellbeing too, which is good for everyone.”