Nearly three-quarters of job vacancies are still failing to offer flexible working, research has found, despite the wholesale changes to working practices caused by the pandemic over the last two years.
In its latest annual labour market snapshot, Timewise found just 26 per cent of UK job vacancies advertised some form of flexible working such as remote working, home working or part-time hours – an increase of just 4 percentage points since 2020.
The organisation has said the failure to offer more flexible options is a “huge missed opportunity” for UK businesses, especially given the record number of vacancies in the current UK labour market.
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Emma Stewart, co-founder and development director at Timewise, warned that many businesses could be missing out on a huge pool of talent by not mentioning upfront what flexible options they are offering, explaining that those who need flexible working for any reason simply won’t apply if they don’t see it referenced.
Businesses and hiring managers still don’t realise the huge demand for flexible working, she explained. “Flexibility is really critical as a talent attraction tool, not just a talent retention tool,” she said, explaining that while many firms will offer flexible working to stop talent leaving, few use it as a tool when hiring.
On top of that, hiring managers also wrongly assume that candidates who want flexible working will bring this up during the interview process when in reality, many people are still worried they’ll be discriminated against if they bring up the subject – a concern that is not entirely unfounded given that one in three people still get turned down for job roles when they ask for flexibility, said Stewart.
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“It's a non-conversation that's happening; candidates aren't applying because they don't think they can bring it up because they might be disadvantaged. And candidates won't bring it up even if they get through to the interview stage,” she said.
The Timewise research also found evidence of an increasing gulf between who is granted which types of flexible working.
Part-time roles were predominantly the preserve of lower-paying jobs: 19 per cent of roles with salaries of under £20,000 a year mentioned part-time work, falling steadily as salary increased to just 3 per cent for roles offering over £80,000.
Conversely, while higher earners had little access to part-time work, they had more access to other forms of flexible working: one in 10 roles paying over £80,000 included the catch-all term “flexible-working”, dropping to just 7 per cent of roles paying under £20,000 a year.
“There's a big difference between applying for a job where you're enabled to work remotely and where you can work three days a week,” Stewart said, adding that getting more part-time opportunities at the top end of the pay scale and more different types of flexibility at the lower end would help to tackle some of the inequalities the UK currently faces.
Stewart added that while the pandemic saw a huge change in the way people worked, it also put a lot of strain on managers, and called for businesses to invest more in supporting the rollout of true flexible working.
“Lots of managers are really overstretched right now and don’t have the support necessarily from their businesses to know how to have these conversations”, Stewart said.
“If you're going to take a job for five days and turn it into a part-time, three-days-a-week job, how do we restructure that? What does that mean for the team? It's a complex process [and] we need to help managers know how to do this,” she said.