Furlough ‘has made employers more open to part-time working’

A new study by Cranfield School of Management and the CBI finds that the furlough scheme has made employers more open to alternative ways of working, including part-time working.

Part Time or Full Time writing on block with clock on top


The furlough scheme – particularly flexible furlough – has changed employers’ perceptions around working practices, increasing openness to part-time working and other forms of flexible working as viable options for their business, according to a new study.

The future of flexible working: Lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic report from Cranfield School of Management and the CBI is based on a cross-sector survey of 208 UK businesses which found that the furlough scheme – particularly the flexible element of it, which enabled employers to bring staff back to work on a part-time basis and for them to be furloughed the remainder of the time – had a fundamental effect on attitudes to part-time and other forms of flexible working.

It found that before the pandemic, most part-time working came about as the result of employee requests, with a proactive approach to recruiting new employees considered a secondary benefit.  However, post-pandemic, 62% of line managers say they are ‘more willing’ to consider employee requests for part-time working.

Almost all (96%) line managers surveyed said they were more flexible about where their employees worked and 87% about how they scheduled their working hours.

Over half of the organisations surveyed expect remote working and flexible working to increase in their organisation over the next two years (60% and 58% respectively). A significant proportion (46%) also expect part-time working to increase.

Almost half (45%) believe the use of flexible furlough has helped line managers in their organisation learn how to design and manage part-time working more effectively. Similarly, 46% believe line managers have learned how to better match resourcing with periods of peak demand for their business activity.

The report’s authors write: “As working practices settle into a ‘new normal’, there are indications that the shock caused by the pandemic, as well as use of the furlough scheme and adoption of more flexible working during the pandemic, will have lasting changes on working practices going forward. The survey reveals a mindset of greater adaptability, with line managers more willing to consider requests for part-time and other forms of flexible working.”

Professor Clare Kelliher, Professor of Work and Organisation at Cranfield School of Management, said: “The flexible element of the furlough scheme effectively marked a ‘forced experiment’ in part-time working for many employers that had little previous experience of part-time working.

“As is always the case with any enforced situation, it can be a very different story when life returns to ‘normal’, but these survey findings suggest that the practical experience of trying out part-time working has helped to overcome some of the perceived barriers for employers around its feasibility and how to implement it in practice.

“This is heartening, because there is evidence to suggest that more people would like to work part-time than currently do, as well as explore options for greater flexibility in the way in which they work.”

Meanwhile, a report by recruiters Morgan McKinley and data analysts Vacancysoft has found that tax accountant vacancies that can be performed from multiple office locations or from home are up 213% in public practice and 586% across in-house roles. It says location neutral roles now constitute 10% of overall hiring for tax experts in England and Wales, up eight per cent since 2020 and lie in third place behind London and the South East for total numbers of vacancies.

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