• Just six per cent of job ads offer flexible working, research finds

  • 10 Jun 2015
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Employers 'dramatically' reduce talent pool by neglecting 46 per cent of UK workforce

Just six per cent of job advertisements mention flexible working options, despite 14.1 million UK workers wanting to work flexibly, a study by recruitment agency Timewise has found.

The research also found that the higher the salary, the less opportunity there was to work reduced hours, or shift work.

Funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The Timewise flexible jobs index, ranked job roles and UK regions according to how many flexible positions were advertised across 122 national job boards between July and December 2014.

It found that of 3.5 million adverts analysed, only 6.2 per cent of roles with a salary of £20,000 a year or more FTE (full-time equivalent) – the amount the survey deemed the minimum needed to live on – offered some degree of flexibility.

However, according to figures from Office of National Statistics and a previous report from Timewise, more than 14 million people in the UK want or need a flexible role, the equivalent to 46 per cent of people in employment in the UK.

Karen Mattison, Timewise CEO and co-author of the research, said businesses were "missing out" by failing to realise how important flexibility is to job seekers.

"This often results in the best talent having to trade down and take jobs way beneath their level of skill and ability," she said.

The report, which classified flexibility as any part-time job and any full-time role offering, a reduced hours contract; different pattern of work such as flexi-time or shifts, or the ability to work from home, also found flexibility declined as salary rises.

A candidate looking for flexible work paying below £30,000 FTE a year will find around twice the job opportunities compared to a candidate looking for work paying more than £40,000 FTE, the study found.

Lynn Rattigan, chief operating officer at EY, UK and Ireland, who supported the research, said: "There is a growing pool of talent, not just parents, who are looking for flexible roles that allow them to balance their professional and personal ambitions.

"One of the major challenges facing most businesses across the country, is attracting and retaining the right people. Yet many organisations are restricting their search by applying the traditional concept of a 9-5 working week."

By region, the study found candidates looking for flexibility have comparatively greater opportunities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and in the north of England.

The region with the least flexible working opportunities advertised was London - perhaps reflecting the plentiful supply of candidates.

When analysed by sector it was found that health and education jobs led the way in offering a degree of flexibility – 20 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. Roles in engineering, manufacturing and creative (PR, advertising and marketing) ranked the lowest, with flexibility advertised in only two per cent of roles.

"It is time to stop talking only about the glass ceilings, and do more to understand the ‘sticky’ floors in UK businesses which are stopping talented people from progressing,” added Emma Stewart, co-CEO of Timewise and report co-author.

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  • Completely agree Alison, it's examples like yours that need to be highlighted and looked at.  Are the flexible working changes going to be reviewed and do we need to find out in more detail the reasons workplaces aren't advertising flexible working opportunities.  I think we also need to really drum in and highlight the HUGE advantages of flexible working in work/life balance and how empowering that can be.  I think all employees work so much better, and put in so much more if they can have say in how they find they work best.  After all, we're all different and all have different things going on at home and at work.  

  • This research from Timewise isn't at all surprising from my own experience. I've spent most of my career working in part time/job share or voluntary roles and haven't worked full time since 1989! Since my redundancy from my job share senior advisory post in December 2012 I've been searching for a similar part time post but there is nothing available and part time opportunities remain rare in the HR profession. I have more chance of winning the lottery than securing a suitable part time role and I'm now volunteering in the heritage sector, even though I'm fully qualified and my HR career has spanned over 30 years. I would like to see the legislation extended to allow job seekers to request flexible working as well as employees with qualifying service. Many parents and carers like me are being locked out of employment as employers are so reluctant to consider flexible working or reduced hours at the recruitment stage and are missing out on talent. This is totally unacceptable and cannot continue.