Only one in seven job adverts offer flexible working

Experts say the absence of flexible options in recruitment processes leaves the majority of workers ‘applying in the dark’

Just one in seven jobs adverts in the UK last year offered any kind of flexible working, an analysis of postings has found.

The study of more than five million job adverts, as part of campaign group Timewise’s Flexible Jobs Index, found that just 15 per cent included mentions of flexible working – up from 9.5 per cent in 2016, but still far short of the estimated demand for flexible jobs. Timewise has estimated that 87 per cent of UK employees want some form of flexibility.

The research also found that middle-income jobs – those in the £20-59,000 range – had the lowest proportion of flexible jobs advertised, at just 14 per cent, suggesting workers requiring part-time work or flexibility could be struggling to work their way up the career ladder.

It said this was particularly concerning because jobs in the £20-34,000 range made up more than a third of postings. 

Lower-income jobs, offering salaries between £14,000 and £19,000, had the highest proportion of flexible options at 23 per cent, but also saw the lowest growth, increasing from 20 per cent in 2016. 

Conversely, jobs offering salaries of more than £60,000 saw the highest growth in flexible offerings – increasing from just 5 to 15 per cent in four years.

Karen Mattison, co-founder of Timewise, told People Management that employers should be advertising and talking about flexibility in the same way they do salary. “If I was applying for a job and it had no mention of salary, so I literally didn't know if it was a £20,000 or £50,000 role, I don't see how I could apply for it,” she said.

“Historically, everything defaults to Monday to Friday 9-5, and you need to ‘earn your stripes’ before anything shifts, but that is the kind of flexibility that keeps people where they are,” Mattison said, noting a difference between employers offering “flexible working” versus practising “flexible hiring”.

She added that the growth in flexible options for high earners may signal a disparity in the power of lower-income workers to negotiate.

“In many cases, [high earners] may have recruitment agents negotiating their contracts on their behalf, and what we don't want is to enable that group of people and leave those further down the career ladder behind because they haven't got that," Mattison said. 

Claire McCartney, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said the people profession had a “key role” to play in unlocking the benefits of flexible working. “They can encourage cultural change as well through leading by example and acting as flexible working role models,” she said.

“The CIPD is committed to promoting greater take-up and access to flexible working across all occupations and sectors, but this will take substantial cultural change.” 

The Flexible Jobs Index also found variations across sectors among flexible and part-time job offerings. Healthcare and social services roles had the highest proportion of adverts including flexible options, at 31 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile, jobs in maintenance and manufacturing offered the fewest flexible options, at 6 per cent and 8 per cent.

HR roles were below the average, with 86 per cent of job adverts in the sector making no mention of flexible, job-share or part-time options.

The index analysed vacancies listed on 450 job boards for mentions of keywords related to flexible or part-time working.

There is currently a bill making its way through parliament that could see employers forced to make all jobs flexible unless they can provide a sound business case for why a role can not be done flexibly.