Research undertaken by Timewise, a flexible work consultancy, has revealed that between December 2019 and October 2020 only 22% of job advertisements mentioned flexible working in any capacity. This is despite the fact that the demand for flexibility has increased amongst the workforce in the same period.
The report highlights that the proportion of job advertisements offering flexible working has increased at a snail’s pace over the last six years, from 10% in 2015 to only 17% at the start of 2020. During the national lockdown in spring 2020, the rate of increase was surprisingly small, at only 22%. This suggests that recruitment advertising is still failing to reflect what is happening in the workplace.
The report also shows how flexibility is all too often linked to salary. Part-time working is more common for lower-paid roles, whilst home working and generic flexible working are disproportionately offered for roles with higher salary levels. The report argues that this two-tier system effectively blocks career progression for people who need to work part-time. It argues that workplace diversity suffers as a result, with women, carers, older workers and people with health concerns disproportionately affected and forced to take lower paying jobs in order to get the flexibility they need.
So, what does this mean for employers? There is an opportunity to remove the bottleneck created by the gap between the proportion of people who want to work flexibly (87%) and the availability of flexible roles at the point of hire (22%). Employers might want to consider increasing their exposure to a larger proportion of the candidate market by expressly offering flexible working in their recruitment advertising. This will help employers reach those “lost” candidates, which include some of the very best available talent and who tend to be from the disadvantaged groups that employers aim to support through equality, diversity and inclusion strategies.
For employers already mentioning flexible working in adverts, consider whether you can be more transparent about the types of flexible working that are available for the role; be it part-time hours, home-working, flexible start and finish times, or other options such as compressed hours or annualised contracts. While there is no one-size-fits-all flexible working pattern, there is always a way to offer employees more input and control, even in frontline roles. Studies have shown time and again that a flexible workforce can be a more profitable workforce. And a happier one to boot!