Refusals to accommodate flexible working requests are costing businesses almost £2bn a year in recruitment and training, as staff look for more accommodating employers.
Flexible working already contributes £37bn to the UK economy each year, according to Flexonomics: The economic and fiscal benefits of flexible working, an economic study aimed at quantifying the contribution of the working arrangement.
Published by Pragmatix Advisory, and commissioned by Sir Robert McAlpine, and flexible working campaigner, Mother Pukka, the report forecasts that a 50 percent increase in current rates of flexible working could result in a net economic gain of £55bn, alongside the creation of 51,200 new jobs.
It also says flexible working (or flex), which is linked to enhanced productivity and higher employee morale also reduces employee absences.
Anna Whitehouse, Founder Mother Pukka and Flex Appeal, comments: “Flexible working has never been about location, it’s always been about inclusion. It’s about including talent. Talent with caring responsibilities, talent living with disabilities. People who are looking to work in a human – or even humane – way that’s ultimately good for business.
For the last six years, Flex Appeal has been lobbying the government, campaigning on the streets of London, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol and Edinburgh. And now we can prove that it’s good for business. That there’s a direct link between flexibility and profitability. That an uptake in flexible working will boost the UK economy, too. If we want to ‘Build Back Better’, now is the time for businesses to use flexible working as the foundation.”
This is a crucial part of the report, which wants to highlight that there is a key distinction between forced home working and flexible working.
Flexible working is defined as any way of working that suits an employee’s needs, and can be split into four segments:
- Working patterns: this can consist of anything from part-time working through to annualised hours, flexitime, compressed hours or self-rostering.
- Workload: this includes reduced hours, job sharing, zero-hour contracts, phase retirement and commissioned outcomes.
- Workplace: offering employees the choice to work from the office, at home or both (‘hybrid’ working).
- Life events: broadly consisting of career breaks or shared parental leave.
The report also wants to show that even the traditionally ‘hard-to-flex sectors’ can embrace flexibility. Construction workers, for example, can take advantage of self-rostering whilst those working in healthcare can swap mutually agreed predictable hours.
It says with an expanded understanding of flex, the regional workforce has better access to a range of jobs across the country, in line with the Government’s Levelling Up scheme.
Ahead of the publication of the Government’s consultation into flexible working, the report also made a number of recommendations for delivering greater flex:
- Ensure clarity on options in adverts: Though the Government is consulting on proposals for a ‘day one right to request flexibility’, this still requires new recruits to either know if such options are available and to have the confidence to ask. If all people who could apply are informed in advance, it widens the pool of potential employees for the business that is advertising.
- Increase data collection: As it stands, limited data is collected on flexible working. Increasing the data collected by the Office for National Statistics would help build a stronger evidence base and understanding of the benefits of all forms flexible working.
- Government to lead by example: The government should consider going further in communicating to businesses the benefits of flexible working, potentially adopting the working arrangement as the default for the civil service and government departments or publishing a list of flexible working employers
Paul Hamer, Chief Executive of Sir Robert McAlpine said: “We have been supporting Flex Appeal because we believe that everyone has the right to a healthier work life balance and flexible working could help us alleviate the mental health crisis in construction. The misconception that flexible working is only applicable to a select few sectors needs to change.
“Flexible working can refer to working patterns, workload or time spent in the workplace, and this report, one of the first of its kind, demonstrates the glaring benefit to the UK economy if adopted more widely. We hope it supports the Government in encouraging all manner of sectors to engage with the possibilities of flexible working.”