Flexible working could help 1.3 million more people into work, analysis suggests

Closing the ‘inclusion gap’ faced by disabled people, carers and those who live rurally could also add £40bn to the economy, LinkedIn study says

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Increased flexibility could open up new work opportunities for millions of people, including carers and people with disabilities, a study has found.

The research, conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) for LinkedIn, estimated there were 1.3 million fewer people from these groups in work than expected when compared to the employment rate of the general population.

This included around 600,000 people living with disabilities, 284,000 people in households with dependant children, 306,000 people with adult care responsibilities and around 104,000 people living in rural areas.

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The research, which analysed UK demographic data, said that by providing more flexible working opportunities, closing this ‘inclusion gap’ could add £40bn to the economy.

Nina Skero, chief executive of CEBR, said the analysis highlighted “the enormous potential hybrid working arrangements hold for inclusivity”.

“The hybrid office model will by no means remove all the structural barriers faced by the highlighted demographic groups. Nonetheless, it does provide optimism for a more inclusive workforce,” she said, adding that the onus was on businesses to make inclusivity a “key part of their agenda”.

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Commenting on the analysis, Steve Ingham, CEO of PageGroup, said disabled individuals were “more than capable of fulfilling many of the same jobs as able-bodied workers”, but inflexible workplace policies often acted as a “roadblock to accessing roles”.

“The widespread move to working from home helped overcome access barriers in many cases, but companies must now challenge their hiring managers and leaders to explore options for truly flexible working,” he said.

This was echoed by James Taylor, head of strategy, impact and social change at Scope, who said flexible working was something many disabled people had been requesting for years.

“Inclusive policies such as flexible and remote working are hugely beneficial for many disabled employees, by allowing people to work in the most effective way for them and contribute their talent, skills and insight,” he said.

The research was released alongside a separate YouGov poll, also conducted for LinkedIn, that showed the pandemic had led to the majority of businesses rethinking their flexible and remote working provision.

Out of 250 C-suite level executives polled, 86 per cent said they were now re-evaluating flexible working.

Janine Chamberlin, UK country manager at LinkedIn, said the pandemic had prompted businesses of all types and sizes to re-evaluate the way they worked.

“As businesses continue to adapt to this new world of work, there is a huge opportunity for them to redesign workplace policies with inclusivity at the heart,” she said.