Make job sharing more accessible and cut tax to improve gender equality, report advises

Commentators say part-time workers can bring ‘different mindsets’ and wider skillsets to an organisation

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Campaigners have called on the government to cut the additional job-share tax on employers to make job sharing more accessible – primarily to women. 

The Job Sharing Report 2023, by Empower, argued that job sharing would improve labour force participation rates for women. Referencing PwC research, the report said that, based on a trajectory rate from 2023, it would take at least 30 years for women to catch up to men’s participation rate in the labour force.

The paper referred to additional research from The Job Share Project, which found that 61 per cent of women would like the opportunity to job share, and 87 per cent said the ability to job share meant the difference between staying with a company or leaving.

However, Empower’s figures show that the number of employees in job-sharing roles had dropped from 124,000 in 2021 to 101,000 in 2022.

Empower concluded that a key hurdle to more widespread job sharing was the ‘job share tax’ cost implication for employers, which makes having two people in one role 23 per cent more expensive than one full-time employee.

Other stumbling blocks include a lack of awareness of what job sharing can deliver, finding a job-share partner, recruitment issues, figuring out adequate working structures and IT, as well as performance management.

While Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula, understands that a job share brings logistical and financial challenges, she said it can be successful if “communication is made key” and employers retain awareness of the inclusive benefits it can bring. “It can enable employees who may wish to work part time to allow for childcare and caring responsibilities to remain in employment, and employers can also benefit from wider skillsets and different mindsets that are brought by having more individuals within the workplace,” she said.

Similarly, Empower’s report concluded that job sharing opens up senior roles to women, facilitates a better work-life balance for them, creates better value for businesses and better facilitates parental leave.

As it stands, Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said that “too many women leave the workforce” because numerous jobs are designed in a way that does not allow them to balance work and life, but flexibility and job sharing can help encourage more women to stay in the labour market, “which can only be good for women, employers and the economy”.

“Employers should be required to think about how to design flexibility into their roles and we need to see jobs advertised as flexible by default – unless there is a sound business reason not to,” she added.

“At the moment, those who need flexibility to work are forced to ask in the recruitment process, and many don’t because of justified fears of discrimination.”

Daniela Korn, head of employment at Tan Ward, added that employers also needed to take initiative by talking about job sharing, promoting a culture of openness and understanding how important it is to retain talent. “By being open to new ways of working outside of the usual Monday to Friday 9-5, employers are encouraging female talent to join and stay long term,” she said.

“[The risks of job sharing] have to be balanced against the risk of losing and/or failing to attract talent.”