Recent research reveals that three out of four job vacancies advertised in the UK don’t offer flexible working options. The annual survey conducted by Timewise, a flexible work consultancy firm, tracked more than five million ads for 17 key words or phrases, including job-share, home-working and part-time. Their findings from the survey showed that just 26% of job vacancy ads posted contained any reference to flexible working options.
Misinformation from the corporate world
This is baffling when you consider that only a few months ago many companies promoted and praised the benefits of flexible working following the enforced periods of homeworking caused by the pandemic. Some of those banging the drum for flexible working included several of the biggest names in the corporate world, such as HSBC and Lloyds Bank in the finance sector; tech giants including Google and Facebook; and Admiral, one of the leading insurance companies.
What makes these findings more remarkable is that half of employees currently enjoy flexible working and an incredible nine out of 10 say they would value this highly in their next job. Workers even rank flexible working above salary when researching new positions.
Although there were 1.1 million vacancies available in the UK in September, the highest for 20 years, there is concern that the majority of these are poorly paid jobs in the hospitality sector. There seems to be a shortage of professional or highly skilled roles for experienced, mid-career workers that require flexible working to fit in with their personal circumstances.
The belief that positions advertised as part-time offer low wages is supported by results from the Timewise survey. The research shows that 20% of low paid jobs advertised (up to £20,000 pro rata) mentioned part-time options - far higher than any other salary band.
Employers are making a mistake
The working landscape has changed dramatically since pre-pandemic times and industry experts believe that employers which aren’t promoting flexible working are missing out on high-calibre candidates.
"Employers that don't include their flexible working offering within their job ads are making a huge mistake," said Professor Sir Cary Cooper, Organisational Psychologist at Alliance Manchester Business School.
"The hybrid model is what the majority of people want - and are currently practising."
Prof Cooper believes that senior management may be deliberately avoiding any reference to flexible working in their adverts "because they fear potential employees will think that they have the automatic right to work remotely 24/7."
He continues by explaining that this is not what most workers want:
"Most people are tired of working in this way. What they're looking for is a mix of being in the office and at home, so they can interact with other colleagues but also have the freedom to take time at home if they need it to juggle other life demands."
A fear of advertising flexible working
Janine Bosak, professor of Organisational Psychology at Dublin City University Business School believed there may be other reasons why employers are reluctant to mention flexible working in ads. Some managers require new employees to attend the workplace so they can familiarise themselves with the tasks involved and get to understand the culture of the company. Prof Bosak added:
"Employers might also be reluctant to mention flexible working in their advertising materials as it might be perceived as a right to flexible working, whereas it might not always be possible to accommodate a desire for flexible working,"
Plans to change legislation
All of this is set to change with the Government’s recent consultation document, titled ‘Making flexible working the default.’
The ground breaking plan will mean that employees will be eligible to request flexible working from day one of their new job. At the moment employees must have worked continuously for 26 weeks before they can make a request for flexible working. Employers that refuse workers this option will have to explain their reasons and suggest alternative work arrangements. The onus will also be on the employer to respond to requests quicker than the current maximum of three months.
The document has been produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and forms part of a wider programme called the Good Work Plan, which began in 2019.
Hopefully, this will resolve the issues that those seeking flexible working are currently facing. After all, the days of working 9 to 5 from Monday to Friday are long gone and will probably never return.
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