Jobs in health and education may not be as flexible as some people think, according to an Office for National Statistics report.
Only 3% of public sector workers report that they work mainly from home, compared with 17% of people who worked in the private sector, according to an Office for National Statistics report on flexible working in the public sector.
It shows that jobs in health and education may not be as flexible as some might think and the flexibility that does exist is often determined by the needs of the job and not necessarily by the needs of the worker.
For example, 46% of those working in occupations in education say that they can work flexibly. Yet, 76% of the reported flexible working patterns in education occupations are term-time only work and a further 16% are annualised contracts (where workers are contracted for a set number of hours each year). The ONS says this suggests that working patterns in education might not be as flexible as they first appear.
In healthcare occupations, 31% of flexible working patterns is “on-call”, followed by “flexitime” (26%) and “annualised contracts” (26%). There is little opportunity for doctors, nurses and midwives and nurse auxiliaries to work term-time only, says the report.
Taken as a whole, however, the public sector is more flexible than the private sector – 42% of public sector workers said that they worked flexibly through alternative working patterns including flexitime (where workers can vary start and finish times, and accrue hours), compressed hours, annualised hours, term-time only working, working on-call and zero hours contracts. This compared to only 21% of private sector workers said that flexible working was part of their agreed working pattern. A further 15% of public sector workers worked part-time hours without any additional flexibility. In total, 23% of public sector workers said they work part time; in the private sector, 21% said that they worked part-time.
Moreover, the report notes an increase in demand for part-time work in the public sector. It says that since 2012 a growing proportion of part-time public sector workers are choosing to work part-time because they do not want full-time jobs. At the same time, the proportion of people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job has decreased. The report says 85% of the overall part-time public sector workforce said that they did not want full-time work in 2018. This figure rose to 98% for doctors, 95% for police officers and 93% for nurses and midwives – much higher than in the private sector where only 70% of those working part time wanted more hours.
Men and women working in the public sector vary in the reasons they give for not wanting a full-time job. Women are most likely to choose not to work full-time in order to spend more time with family, says the report. On the other hand, men tend to choose part-time work because they feel financially secure or because they earn enough working part-time. Of those who gave family time and domestic commitments as reasons for working part-time, around three quarters said that they had caring responsibilities for their children and/or relatives.
The report also says that working patterns vary considerably between different public sector occupations. The lowest levels of flexibility were reported by police officers, and nurses and midwives. Local and national government administrators and teaching support assistants reported having most flexibility.