Parents urge employers to publish flexible working policies

Survey finds transparency over family policies would make an businesses more attractive

Employers have been urged to be more transparent about their flexible working and other family-related policies, as a poll of parents found doing so would make them overwhelmingly more attractive to potential candidates.

A survey from charity Working Families found 89 per cent of respondents agreed that employers should be required to advertise vacancies with part-time and flexible options.

The research, which polled more than 700 parents and carers, also found that a lack of quality, permanent part-time opportunities was a barrier to applying for jobs for 84 per cent of employed and 95 per cent of unemployed parents and carers, and that transparency around flexible working policies would make an employer more attractive to 97 per cent of survey respondents.

Since 2014, employees have been able to request flexible working after being employed for a minimum of 26 weeks. Sarah Ronan, operations manager at pressure group Pregnant Then Screwed, said mandating employers publish their flexible working policies was the next step towards equality in the workplace.

"It's been five years since the right to request flexible working was introduced, and we still haven't seen flexible working make the leap to working convention,” Ronan said. “That is in large part down to the reluctance of employers to embrace and promote it as something other than a 'parent perk'.

"Forcing employers to publish these policies allows us to scrutinise their efforts to make workplaces more inclusive."

But, Ronan added, being transparent about flexible working policies was something employers should want to do. She said: “Advertising these policies is a great way of drawing out talent that might not have considered their organisation before. It's common sense practice, not just best practice.

"Employers need a push in the right direction and these results amount to working parents and carers saying very clearly to the government: 'Do more.' We believe that more should be in the form of making all jobs flexible by default, but publishing policies is a step in the right direction."

In the 2019 Modern Families Index, published by Working Families and Bright Horizons, while 86 per cent of parents polled said they would like to work flexibly, just under half (49 per cent) actually did. 

Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families, added that when parents did have access to flexibility, they often felt trapped in that flexible role. "Large employers publishing their flexible and family-friendly policies will empower parents to make informed choices about where they work, igniting a ‘race to the top’ around flexible and family-friendly policies among employers that want to recruit and retain the best talent," said van Zyl.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said the workforce was still “divided between the flexibility haves and have-nots”, and that far too many women were unable to secure the working hours they needed.

"As a result, they are either excluded from the labour market or trapped working below their skill level, while men are stuck in outdated working patterns that prevent them from participating equally in caring for children," said Smethers.

"True equality of roles in the workplace and at home will only be achieved when everyone is offered flexible work by default. We all pay a price for the outdated way we design our workplaces. It’s time for change and employers need to be open about what they offer their staff."

Anna Ives, consultant and founder of HR Puzzle, argued that flexible working could also benefit more people than just parents, including existing employees looking for new roles within the workplace. "It’s not just parents who want flexible working, but people who want to semi-retire and those who have other caring responsibilities. Flexible working can help to solve a lot of problems," she said.

"We should be able to work whatever times we want and fit work around other priorities," said Ives.

The CIPD has co-chaired a government task force to encourage businesses to advertise all roles as flexible.

The government is currently consulting on whether employers should have a duty to consider if a job can be done flexibly and make this clear when advertising vacancies.

The consultation, which closes 29 November, will also examine options for requiring large employers with 250 or more employees to publish their family-related leave and pay and flexible working policies.

In July this year, Conservative MP Helen Whately introduced a flexible working bill in parliament seeking to make flexible working the default for employers, rather than the responsibility of employees to request.