Campaigners call for flexible work to become the norm as report raises concerns over women’s workplace equality

New report from Close the Gap finds that the right to request flexible working has failed to create more flexible jobs for Scottish women

  • Close the Gap campaign report finds no evidence to suggest an increase in formal flexible working since its extension in 2014
  • Close the Gap executive director Anna Ritchie Allan: “We need a step-change in workplace culture so that flexible working becomes the norm”
  • Report follows study which found that 32 per cent of UK office workers are still not offered flexible working conditions
  • UK Government plans to consult on changes to the law, including a potential requirement for employers to consider advertising all jobs as flexible

THE RIGHT to request flexible working conditions had not led to the creation of more flexible jobs for Scottish women, according to a new report.

Published today by the expert policy advocacy organisation Close the Gap, which campaigns to close the gender pay gap, ‘Flexible Working for All: The impact of the right to request regulations in Scotland’ concludes that there is no overall evidence to suggest an increase in formal flexible working since its extension under statutory Right to the Request Flexible Working legislation in 2014.

The report also notes that there has been a 29 per cent reduction in the use of term-time working and a 35 per cent reduction in job-sharing – both of which are overwhelmingly done by women. Additionally, female parents are still six times more likely to work part-time than male parents, with most of that part-time work coming from lower-paid jobs and sectors.

The research also reaffirms prior evidence on the limitations of the current law surrounding flexible working and its impact on women’s workplace equality. Employees must be in their jobs for six months before making a flexible working request, which presents difficulties for women seeking to move to new jobs.

READ MORE: Public reporting will not shift pay gap, experts warn

This barrier is further compounded by the very low proportion of jobs that are advertised as being available for flexible working. Only 12 per cent of jobs paying more than £20,000 are advertised as having flexible working options, which particularly affects women who are returning to employment after taking time out to care.

However, there has been an increase in home-working and flexi-time, by 23 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. These are used equally by men and women.

Upon the report’s publication, Close the Gap has called for a “step change in workplace culture”, and called upon employers to consider ten recommendations that have been informed by the findings of their research.

Close the Gap’s executive director Anna Ritchie Allan commented: “Flexible working is a critical factor in enabling women to balance work with caring, supporting women to progress into senior roles, and it’s also a necessary step in closing the gender pay gap. 

“There is clear and mounting global evidence that flexible working is good for business, and many employers are already reaping the benefits that flexibility can bring. Companies that don’t provide flexibility are missing out on female talent as many women are working below their skill level in the only part-time work that’s available.

“We need a step change in workplace culture so that flexible working becomes the norm, with flexible and quality part-time jobs available at all levels.”

READ MORE: Hamilton nursery school becomes first certified 'mum friendly workplace' in Scotland

Close the Gap’s recommendations to employers include mapping flexible working across their business to identify where rigid working hours might be a barrier to women’s progression; advertising all jobs as being considered for flexible working; and building up the capacity of line managers to produce creative solutions to flexible working requests.

The new report follows the release of a study by the PowWowWow Smarter Working Initiative earlier this month, commissioned for the 5th anniversary of a legal right to request flexible working being established. This study found that 32 per cent of UK office workers are still not offered the option of flexible working by their employer, despite the uptake of flexible working hours across the UK this year being up by 14 per cent on 2018.

The survey also found that 70 per cent of those who have not benefited from flexible working yet also desired the option of a better work/life balance, while 79 per cent of office workers believe flexible working would make them more productive.

This week, the UK Government announced that it plans to consult on changes to the law which would improve transparency around employer policies on flexible working, as well as introducing a requirement for employers to consider advertising all jobs as flexible.

Picture courtesy of Channy Yun

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