That was the question being asked at today’s Flexible Working Event hosted by The Equality of Human Rights Commision as part of its #WorkingForward campaign, the event sought to address some of the issues facing employees and businesses around flexible working and particularly in respect of talent acquisition.
The panel of speakers led by Anna Withew of Working Forward was made up of Stephen Chegwin, an employment lawyer at Eversheds Sutherland, Lucy Haworth, Senior Recruiter and Head of Operations at 923 Recruitment and Laudale Managing Director Alec Laurie.
Flexible working is a topical issue, it’s one which the government has discussed twice this year in parliament and in October 2018 released a paper which provided an overview of the current right to request flexible working, (currently you must have been employed for 26 weeks) the government has aired plans to scrap this, but it’s an area where rhetoric doesn’t match reality as discussed by Stephen Chegwin who opened the session with focus on the legal requirements of an employer in respect of flexible working requests and clarity on what employees are legally entitled to request and receive – here’s the short version right now, according to UK law, employees can request it but employers aren’t legally bound to grant it.
So, if employers don’t ‘have’ to provide flexible working options (technically) then why do so?
Laudale’s Alec Laurie set the scene with some staggering figures, as 50% of businesses report struggling to find talent whilst 81% of women and 69% of men said flexible working would make a job more appealing, meanwhile just 10% of roles actually advertise flexible working painting a pretty obvious picture of why the talent gap in the UK workforce has emerged and continues to grow. Busting the misconception that it’s just women and just parents who want flexible working Alec shared insight into the profile of the ‘typical’ candidate who wants flexible working – it’s a long list so we’ll put it this way ‘ who doesn’t’ almost everyone requires some form of flexible working and the majority of workplaces are in a position to offer it and should, as not doing so can literally mean the difference between a great hire or not.
This was a sentiment echoed by fellow recruiter Lucy Haworth who outlined the business case for adopting flexible working and shared case studies from clients focusing on increases in productivity, profits, and reductions in running costs as a result. Lucy who only works with businesses who offer flexible working shared that in an independent survey carried out by 923 Recruitment, flexible working was found to be the most important factor when selecting a job meaning the 10% who are including it in their advertisements are automatically fishing in a much bigger talent pool which can only be a positive for businesses seeking the best talent.
The need to work flexibly is one which employers can no longer ignore and it’s something which the workforce of tomorrow will expect as standard, 92% of millennials already want flexible working and where they lead Gen Z won’t be far behind, independent working is already on the rise in the UK, there are more options for working the way you want to than ever before so it’s time for businesses to embrace flexible working or get left behind in the race for top talent.
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