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Flexible Jobs Index 2018: it’s time to tackle the how

By Emma Stewart, Co-Founderpeople crossing bridge

Today sees the publication of the Timewise Flexible Jobs Index 2018, our annual report on the percentage of openly advertised jobs that offer some kind of flexibility at the point of hire. And on this occasion, it feels like it’s coinciding with a watershed moment for the flexible jobs market.

In the last six months alone, the reporting of the first pay gap figures has focused attention on how being able to climb the career ladder whilst still working flexibly can help close the gender pay gap. The Prime Minister has responded by calling on employers to advertise jobs as flexible from day one. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has established a Flexible Working Taskforce, of which I am a member. And reports from the IFS and the Resolution Foundation have highlighted the need to deliver better flexible and part-time jobs to tackle low pay and drive earnings growth, particularly for women with caring responsibilities.

In short, the concept of flexible working as a benefit for business has well and truly landed. And that’s brilliant news for those of us who have been campaigning for over a decade to make flex the new normal. Businesses now understand why it’s important to offer flexible roles, and that’s a big change. But unfortunately, as this year’s figures show, this isn’t matched by an increased understanding of how to achieve it.

Another small increase in the number of flexibly advertised roles

According to this year’s Flexible Jobs Index, only 11.1% of jobs over £20K FTE are being advertised as open to flexibility. That’s a small increase from the 2017 and 2016 figures (9.8% and 8.7% respectively) – essentially, it’s been hovering around 10% for the last three years.

The index also highlights the flexible progression problem, which has been linked to social issues such as in-work poverty. While 21.2% of jobs under £20K FTE are advertised as being flexible, this drops sharply to 12.3% for jobs between £20K and £35K FTE, and continues to fall as salaries rise. It’s hardly surprising that flexible workers tend to get trapped in low paid roles; there just aren’t enough higher paid ones for them to move up to.

The demand for flexible roles far outstrips supply

Yet the backdrop to all this is that the demand for flexible working is at an all-time high. Our research has indicated that 87% of employees either work flexibly already or wish they could. And this demand is on the increase, rising from 88% for Generation X to a staggering to 92% for Generation Y.

So clearly, employers who want to attract the best talent need to match employee expectations, and support them to thrive. And that means creating and advertising flexible jobs within a flexible-friendly culture.

We’re proving that it can be done – now we’d like to prove it to you

The good news is, if you’re onside with the why, but less sure about the how, you’re in the right place. We work with a wide range of organisations to identify specific barriers to flexible working. And we put strategies in place to overcome these barriers, across different sectors and role types, and at all skill levels, so that those who have the most to gain from a quality flexible jobs market are not left behind.

With our support, these progressive employers are moving from having a reactive flexible working policy to a living and breathing flexible strategy and culture. A number of them now advertise the majority of their roles as flexible, or have flexible working as their default position, in sharp contrast to the low percentages indicated in this year’s index.

I’m not going to pretend that it’s a quick fix; creating this kind of systemic change takes time and determination. But the social case for change is clear, the business case is no longer in doubt, and we’re proving first-hand that it can be done. If more businesses come on this journey with us, we’ll be looking at a very different Flexible Jobs Index – and a vastly improved flexible job market – in the years ahead. Let’s get cracking.

Download full report, 2018 Timewise Flexible Jobs Index

To find out more about how to design and deliver flexible jobs within a flexible culture, please email or call 020 7633 4444

Published July 2018

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