Tag Archives: job advertising

Getting flexible about flexible working

By Richard Dunstan, Workflex blog editor

British workers want flexible working – but only 6% of job ads offer it.

So ran the headline in the Guardian earlier this month, as it reported new research by the Timewise consultancy revealing that more than 14 million British workers – almost half the working population – would like (more)  flexibility in their working hours or location. Yet, despite advances in technology and substantial changes in how and were people work, analysis by Timewise of 3.5 million UK-based job vacancies found that less than one in ten of advertised new jobs offer both decent pay and the opportunity to work flexibly.

The research found that the proportion of jobs advertised with flexible working options varies considerably between regions, from sector to sector, and depending on the job role. Candidates looking for a flexible job have relatively greater opportunities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England, while jobs within the engineering, manufacturing and creative industries rank the lowest in terms of flexible working options.

Urging employers to “use the F-word” when designing new job roles and advertising vacancies, co-author and Timewise CEO Karen Mattison said:

The world of work has experienced a revolution – technological advances and recent legislation [such as the right to request flexible working] have facilitated a huge growth in flexible working, yet this has not been reflected in in hiring practices. Businesses are missing out, as they consistently fail to realise just how how important flexibility is to people looking for a new role. It’s time to reboot the way we recruit in Britain.

Here at Working Families, we couldn’t agree more. Despite great progress in both the law and employer best practice, negative assumptions about flexible and family-friendly working persist. Reduced-hours working is heavily gendered and all too often viewed by managers as a lack of commitment, with senior roles and flexible working wrongly held to be incompatible. As a result, and as highlighted previously on this blog, there are simply too few good quality part-time or otherwise flexible, putting single parents and parents of disabled children at particular disadvantage. Furthermore, as recent research by think tank IPPR has concluded, the “concentration of part-time work outside of high-level jobs may increase the tendency for women to work in occupations below their skill level”.

That is why, during the General Election campaign, we urged all the political parties to increase the supply of good quality, flexible jobs by adopting a ‘flexible by default’ approach to job design and recruitment in the public sector. This would ensure that all jobs in central and local government are advertised on a flexible basis unless there is a specific, good business reason not to. Camden Council and others are already blazing a trail in this regard, demonstrating how flexible working can “help solve problems of family worklessness as well as improve workforce performance and efficiency”.

We also suggested that new ministers should act and recruit business leaders as ‘flexible working’ champions, and that they should encourage private sector employers to ‘use the F-word’ from the outset by adopting our Happy to talk flexible working logo and strapline in their recruitment process.


The logo and strapline are the result of work by the Promoting Flexible Working to Private Sector Employers Working Group (PSWG) for the Department for Work & Pensions . Led by Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families, the PSWG brought together employer bodies, the TUC and recruiters to find practical ways of delivering cultural change, outside the legislative process.

Too few jobs are advertised flexibly, and we know that employers who only advertise their vacancies on a full-time basis may be fishing from a very narrow talent pool. The strapline is intended to encourage employers to think about job design and flexibility before recruitment, and to give potential applicants the confidence to ask about alternative work patters at the selection stage.

We realise that putting a logo on a job ad isn’t the whole story. So we’ve also produced some simple guidance about job design to help employers consider what the job really needs and what type of flexible working might work best.

But being Happy to Talk is a great start!


Where are all the part-time jobs?

By Richard Dunstan, Policy & Parliamentary Campaigns Officer, Working Families.

On Monday, it was reported that, in a bid to tackle “the childcare crisis”, the  minister for education and childcare, Liz Truss, is “writing to every council in England to suggest that school nurseries extend their opening hours to allow parents to leave toddlers during the working day”.  According to the Daily Telegraph, ministers “believe that opening up the system will help provide tens of thousands more childcare places, which are urgently needed in many areas [and] will also enable mothers to go back into part-time work”.

Whilst almost any governmental initiative to tackle the dire shortage of affordable childcare is to be welcomed, one immediate response to Monday’s reports was: what part-time work? Because, as Laura Dewar of Single Parent Action Network (and a Working Families trustee) was quick to point out, single parents and others – such as parents of disabled children – who need to work part-time rather than full-time, often find there are relatively few part-time jobs on offer.  Which might seem counter-intuitive, given that there are now more part-time jobs in the UK economy than ever before.

As Duncan Weldon of the TUC demonstrated with five simple charts in an admirably clear blog post late last month, a sharp increase in the number and proportion of people working part-time is just one of several so-called compositional changes in the labour market over the past six years.   Since January 2008 the number of people working full-time has risen by 63,000, whilst the number working part-time has grown by 588,000.

However, this does not mean that more workers are working part-time out of choice or, due to their caring responsibilities, out of necessity.  Nor does it mean that there are more vacant part-time jobs on offer.  As the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, noted in a House of Commons debate on ‘job insecurity’ earlier this week, the number of people working part-time who actually want to work full-time “has grown by over 350,000” since 2010.  Furthermore, most of the increase in part-time employment has been amongst men – the number of women working part-time has remained remarkably steady since 2008, and even fell slightly in 2013.

Laura Dewar points to some startling figures on the DWP’s Universal Jobsmatch website, which suggest a lack of quality, part-time vacancies, especially at the intermediate level.  Of the 3,385 nursing jobs in London advertised on Universal Jobsmatch this week, only 154 (4.5 per cent) are listed as part-time.  Similarly, of the 3,142 teaching jobs in London, only 128 (four per cent) are listed as part-time.  And the situation is little different in other sectors and regions: of the 3,824 creative/design jobs advertised nationally this week, only 183 are listed as part-time; and of the 4,678 IT/software development vacancies in Manchester and the North West, a mere 20 are listed as part-time.

Whilst such figures might not be wholly reliable (i.e. some part-time jobs might not be advertised as such), they do illustrate the very real difficulty that many single parents – nine out of ten of whom are women – and others with exceptionally demanding care responsibilities face in trying to find suitable part-time work.  And that includes, as Laura notes, those non-working single parents “who are on job-seeking benefits and are obliged to take work as quickly as possible”.

So, what is to be done?  Is it really beyond the ken of government to bring about more flexible job advertising, especially in the public sector, to give not just single parents but also older women, parents of disabled children and others who need to work part-time access to a wider range of quality jobs?

Working Families has previously suggested there is a role for Jobcentre Plus to bring about a step-change in employer attitudes to the advertising and filling of vacancies, so as to widen the pool of talent from which they recruit and help people move into more financially sustainable work.  To that end, we are pleased to be working with DWP on piloting an advertising strapline – “Happy to Talk Flexible Working” – that will enable employers to be upfront about their flexible vacancies in job adverts.

Looking further ahead, we’d like to see a presumption, in the public sector at least, that all vacancies are advertised as being available on a part-time, job-share or flexible basis. With all the main parties committed to moving more single parents, disabled people and others off benefits and into work, that would seem to be the very least that a future government could do in return.