Spotlight put on flexible working notspots

Analysis of official data by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found the use of flexible working arrangements is unequal across the UK, leading to a warning of the risks of potentially creating a two-tier workforce.

Using data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey, the CIPD has ranked UK nations and regions from the most to the least flexible in terms of working arrangements.

It has shown some areas to be “flexible working notspots”.

Workers in South East England have the best flexible working options, followed by the East of England, while workers in the Yorkshire and Humber region are least likely to have flexibility in their role.

The CIPD looked at three types of flexible working:

  • flexibility over when someone works (flexible hours - including flexi-time, annualised hours, term-time working, job share, four and a half day week, zero hours contract);
  • flexibility over where someone works (those who work from home); and
  • informal flexibility (how start/end time is determined, ability to take a couple of hours off during the working day to deal with personal matters, able to take leave at short notice, frequency of unforeseen work demands or available for work in free time).

Generally, the analysis found that in regions where employees report better flexibility in hours, they tend to have less flexibility over where they work (the North East comes out top for flexible hours, but bottom for flexibility of location).

Regions with greater flexibility in terms of where employees work have the opposite problem, with less use of flexible hours and informal flexibility (Londoners have the best flexibility around where they work, but many do not have flexibility in their hours or informal flexibility with their employer).

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said: “Employers should think creatively about the flexibility they can provide to those that need to be in the physical workplace as well as those who can work remotely, ensuring everyone has fairness of opportunity.”

Having a wide range of flexible options is necessary to support the whole workforce, he went on, and there should be an increase in the uptake of all forms of flexible working, regardless of the type of work someone does or the region they are in.

When employers are reviewing flexible working options, it is not likely that they consider a wider national or regional impact. Putting things into perspective in this way is, however, eye-opening and begs the question as to why there are so-called flexible working ‘notspots’. Still, outside of government guidance on homeworking due to coronavirus, employers have autonomy on how they respond to flexible working requests from eligible employees.

The way employers embrace flexibility in the long run will be down to how they view it as a benefit to their business.

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