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The Timewise Flexible Jobs Index 2019

Our annual report on the proportion of job adverts that offer flexible working reveals continued slow growth. Availability still lags far behind candidate demand. But there’s a chink of hope: flexible jobs at higher salaries have trebled over the last 4 years.

Flexible jobs index

Key findings

  • Our latest Flexible Jobs Index reveals that 15.3% of job adverts offer flexible working options. This proportion has increased slowly over the five years that Timewise has produced this report (from 9.5% in 2015), and the rate of increase has stepped up slightly in 2019.
Flexible jobs index - proportion of jobs open to flexibility
  • The problem is particularly acute for workers trying to move up from very low paid jobs. Flexible working is offered in 23% of job adverts where the salary is less than £20k FTE; but at the next salary band (£20k-£34K FTE), the availability of flexible jobs drops to only 14%.
  • However, the rate of growth in flexible jobs has actually been fastest amongst higher paid roles. In adverts for jobs paid over £60k FTE, the availability of flexible working has trebled over the last 4 years from 5% in 2016 to 15% now. This perhaps suggests that employers find it easier to offer flexible working in roles with a greater degree of autonomy; or perhaps they recognise that the benefit of flexible working helps attract candidates into highly competitive roles.
  • Almost half of all advertised flexible jobs are part-time or job-share (a form of part-time work). A further quarter of flexible job adverts offer other specific forms of flex, such as home-working or flexi-time. The remaining quarter offer unspecified options for ‘flexible working’ – these tend to be full-time jobs where the employer is open to flexibility by negotiation with the candidate.
Flexible jobs index - types of flexibility offered
  • The balance between part-time jobs and those that are ‘open to flexible working’ varies dramatically by salary. At salaries below £20k FTE, 73% of all flexible jobs are part-time, while only 13% are ‘open to flex’. The balance flips for flexible jobs paid over £80k FTE: 45% are ‘open to flex’ while only 27% are part-time.
  • Availability of flexible jobs varies by role category. The pattern is similar to previous years, with medical/health roles, social services and security well ahead of other role categories. Meanwhile male dominated roles such as construction, engineering and maintenance lag behind. Legal roles have shown no growth this year – a notable exception amongst professional roles.
  • Availability of advertised flexible jobs is low across all UK regions. Scotland, the South West and Wales are slightly ahead (17%-18%), and London slightly behind (14%).

The gap between the proportion of people who want to work flexibly (87%) and the availability of flexible jobs at the point of hire (15%) causes a talent bottleneck. Employers who don’t hire flexibly are cutting themselves off from a proportion of the candidate market.

Emma Stewart, CEO, Timewise

Timewise view

When we first launched the Timewise Flexible Jobs Index five years ago, our view was that employers needed to look particularly at the higher salary bands, where the availability of flexible options at the point of recruitment was as low as 5%. This had huge implications for the career progression of flexible workers.

So it’s great to see that there’s a definite opening up at the higher end of the payscale. However, it’s a cause for concern that these senior level roles don’t tend to be classified as part-time, but under the broader description of ‘flexible’. It’s unclear whether the flexibility on offer is what people actually want; senior level part-time roles still seem to be elusive.

Moreover, alarm bells are now ringing for jobs in the lower salary bands, where the year on year rate of increase of flexible jobs is very slow. The reason is that part-time still accounts for the vast majority of flexible roles at this level, and employers are not additionally opening up full-time jobs to flexible working more generally.

In summary, the pattern of flexibility that’s on offer is inconsistent across the salary spectrum, with part-time work continuing to be associated with poorer quality roles at the lower end of the market. The flexible market is not only small, but is becoming more fragmented in terms of types of available flexibility.

Collectively, we need to take up the challenge, and work towards creating an inclusive flexible jobs market. One which supports key groups to return to and stay in the workplace, by delivering the part-time and flexible roles they want and need.

Important note: the Flexible Jobs Index now measures jobs at all salary levels, rather than ‘quality paid jobs 20k+ FTE

From 2015 to 2018, the Timewise Flexible Jobs Index reported on ‘quality’ jobs, defined as those paying more than £20k FTE. In 2019, we have decided to drop this ‘quality’ measure and instead monitor jobs at all salary levels. As we have retained much raw data from earlier years, all year-on-year comparisons made in the 2019 report are correct.

The reasons for the change are twofold:

  • £20k used to be the threshold for meeting minimum income standards for parents, older people and disabled people. This quality measure is out of date – the threshold would now be higher.
  • Because of wage inflation, the proportion of jobs paid less than £20k FTE is falling. As a result, the difference is now fairly insignificant, when comparing the share of flexible jobs at £20k+ (14%) versus for all jobs (15%).

Research report downloads

2019 Timewise Flexible Jobs Index 2018 Timewise Flexible Jobs Index 2017 Timewise Flexible Jobs Index 2016 Timewise Flexible Jobs Index 2015 Timewise Flexible Jobs Index

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