Research

‘Fake flex’ disadvantages parents and carers

27 May 2021 By Jyoti Rambhai

Report warns businesses risk creating a 'two tier' workforce that could undermine gender equality

Employers must avoid measures that give the illusion of flexible working, which could see parents and carers missing out on the benefits of remote working, a new report has warned.

In a survey by Karian and Box and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, 90 per cent of organisations said they’d increased support for home working, and 97 per cent were looking to adopt a hybrid working model.

Despite this, the report argued that more targeted measures were needed because those who take on the bulk of caring responsibilities – mainly women – risk seeing the boundaries between work and personal life dissolve. At the same time, many carers working flexibly are experiencing increased workloads as they are seen as always being available.

The poll of 254 organisations revealed that only half (52 per cent) of employers provided more support for part-time workers and a third (36 per cent) were actively redesigning job roles.

Dubbed ‘fake flex’ – where employees work remotely but without measures to prevent them having to do more or work in ways that don’t fit around other responsibilities – the report warned that businesses risk creating a two-tier workforce if they did not start thinking more broadly about flexibility. It said true flexibility was about how people work, not just where they work, and can take numerous forms such as job sharing, having set hours, working compressed hours or term-time working.

With women more likely than men to work part time and to want to work from home post pandemic, a two-tier workforce could undermine progress on gender equality. To mitigate this, the report recommended employers establish routines and processes that ensure employees working from home do not miss out on opportunities to progress.

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