20 March 2014
A brand new accreditation programme designed to help local authorities become more flexible, both as employers themselves and as key influencers of other employers in the community, launches today. Timewise Council status is awarded to local authorities that commit to becoming more flexible as employers, meeting the future challenges of our changing workforce¹.
Changes in ‘how’ we work are being driven by multiple factors, including the evolving shape and needs of the UK workforce and the growing use of digital technologies.
The accreditation process has been designed specifically for local authorities that want to be at the forefront of such change, becoming leaders for flexible working. The path to accreditation is agreed through a collaborative process between Timewise and a given local authority, and can help them meet a number of objectives:
- To attract and progress diverse talent
- To develop agile and efficient services in the face of unprecedented budget cuts
- To stimulate greater flexibility in the local jobs market, sharing learning with local employers
- To deliver on public service duties – by helping workless residents to find jobs that with caring responsibilities and, in doing so, raise their living standards.
Why local authorities…
Local authorities hold a unique position of influence when it comes to ‘how’ we work, and have the potential to make a real difference to the working lives of their employees, local businesses and residents.
Timewise co-founder Emma Stewart MBE is a thought leader in the field of flexible working and has influenced local, regional and national labour market and family policy. She developed the Timewise Councils framework with the people behind Fairtrade, and says:
“This is about being mindful of imminent changes in the way we work, and supporting local government to meet those challenges head on. Local authorities are often the single largest employers in their communities, collectively employing 1.4million people. They also procure £62 billion worth of goods and services, and as such hold a key position of influence amongst other employers.”
She continues: “The Timewise Councils programme has been designed to do three things: help local authorities leverage their power to influence; build efficiencies into the delivery of public services; and stimulate local flexible job markets for residents who need to fit jobs with caring responsibilities. The Timewise Councils programme builds on the social principles behind the Living Wage and helps councils tackle unprecedented cuts by mainstreaming flexibility into strategies that span workforce, organisational planning and economic development.”
On the path to Timewise Council accreditation, local authorities commit to a 6 point improvement plan². This involves setting goals and activities, such as increasing the number of jobs a council advertises with flexible working options, or clarifying the messages it sends to the local business community re: flexible working².
Camden becomes the first ever pioneering Timewise Council
Timewise has worked closely with Camden Council over the past 6 months to co-design the accreditation framework. Camden’s motivation for becoming the first ever Timewise Council was an innovative response to the findings of its Equality Taskforce. Although unemployment is falling in Camden, 37 per cent of Camden mothers are out of work and maternal worklessness rates in the borough are higher than both the London and UK average. Becoming the first ever Timewise Council forms part of Camden’s wider pledge to make Camden a better place to live, where everybody has the chance to succeed.
Councillor Sarah Hayward, Leader of Camden Council says: “We have worked hard over the past six months to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to find jobs and progress in their careers, no matter what their pattern of work.”
She continues: “As such, we are proud to become the first ever Timewise Council and are championing the ‘timewise’ ethos to local business and other authorities.”
“From advertising all our roles as ‘open to flexibility for the right candidate’ to providing help and support to mothers who want to find local, flexible jobs. Choosing to pursue accreditation has helped us become a true trailblazer for flexible working, helped us to deliver services and is part of how we are tackling inequality in Camden.”
Camden’s journey to becoming the first ever Timewise Council has included the following milestones:
- A cabinet resolution to explicitly consider flexible working options on all future job adverts.
- Where such requests have been made since implementation, all have been accepted. It is Camden’s intention to increase the number of these requests and ensure managers have the confidence to say ‘yes’ when they are reasonable.
- Launch of a new website and on-the-ground service, connecting Camden parents to flexible opportunities, mentoring and advice. Free places for career support are now available for parents in the borough who have total household incomes of £40,000 a year or less.
- Use of strategic business forums to raise awareness of the Timewise concept and explore opportunities for collaboration with partners.
- Internal research amongst staff and managers, which resulted in a commitment to deliver support and training to help managers recruit and manage part time employees.
- Establishment of an advisory board comprising local business leaders, employer intermediaries, flexible working experts and community organisations.
Notes for editors:
¹ Flexible working in this context can mean home working, part time working, condensed hours, job shares, job splits – any form of unconventional working.
² The accreditation programme requires a local authority to develop improvement plans across five areas:
1. Leadership: Commitment to flexible working is embedded in strategy and policy, and championed by senior management.
2. Workforce: The Council’s commitment to flexible working is reflected in its HR policies and procedures. A system to monitor flexible working across functions and job levels is developed and clear indicators to measure progress agreed. Council is developing an understanding of how working cultures and behaviours can influence the use of flexible working. Areas for improvement have been identified and priorities and actions have been agreed to achieve these.
3. Residents: A clear economic development strategy exists for improving access to flexible working for local residents and provides information and advice for people seeking to combine work with other commitments, especially those currently unemployed.
4. Employers: The Council provides support and advice to local employers on how to overcome barriers to – and unlock the potential for – flexible working and provides opportunities to share learning and best practice. The accreditation framework recognises that the Council is primarily an influencer and enabler of change among employers and has little direct control.
5. Suppliers: There is a long-term commitment to influencing suppliers to adopt flexible working practices, especially where this can improve business performance and help secure best value.
The framework for assessing and accrediting Timewise Councils focuses on continual improvement against the goals set. A sixth step requires a local authority to establish a multi-stakeholder Advisory Board to monitor ongoing progress in the implementation of policy and procedure set in improvement plans.
³ Local authorities and their position of influence on UK working practice:
– Councils are often the largest single recruiter in their communities, working across a wide range of functions to deliver their services. Nationally, local authorities and associated bodies employ around 1.4 million people – 5 per cent of the UK’s total workforce.
– Local authorities have influence with other employers through procurement of goods and services worth over £62 billion a year and are required to consider the social impact of their purchasing as part of their obligations to secure best value.
– The 190 local authorities operating across England are vital hubs for engaging with citizens, businesses and the voluntary sector. As elected public bodies they are democratic, accountable and transparent which are all important factors in sharing learning and promoting best practice.
Please contact Jo Burkill: t: 0207 633 4553 / m: 07970 655151 / e: firstname.lastname@example.org