Making flexible working for all a reality

An All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Work yesterday heard ideas for ensuring the benefits of flexible working are not mainly for office-based workers after Covid.


The Government should pump prime a Challenge Fund to help employers in sectors with many frontline workers where profit margins are tight so they can test and trial new ways of working, an All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting heard yesterday.

Emma Stewart, Development director at Timewise, told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Work that it is harder to introduce flexibility into frontline work rather than office jobs where people can work remotely. She said it is important to be honest about the cost of making work cultures more flexible, including investment in training managers to manage flexible workers.

She added that in order to avoid flexible working increasing inequalities, we need to ensure that flexible workers are not excluded from the recovery by encouraging employers to advertise jobs as flexible from day one and to ensure fair access to good quality flexible work so people don’t have to choose between job security and flexible working. The Government should, she said, enact legislation to make flexible working a day one right, encourage employers to think flexible when they are ‘building back’ and offer support to those on the Restart programme to negotiate flexible working and share examples of frontline workers who are successfully working flexibly.

Yvonne Braun, Director of Policy, Long Term Savings and Protection at the Association of British Insurers, spoke about a recent initiative launched by the ABI which she called “the biggest drive to expand flexible working in the sector”. Twenty seven firms, including Aviva, Zurich, Lloyds and Admiral, have signed up to the Making Flexible Work campaign to normalise flexible working by, over the next year, pledging to publicise their flexible working policies, open up most of their roles to flexible working, especially job shares and part-time work, and put processes and guidance in place to encourage flexible working. One of the main aims is to tackle the gender seniority gap through making the case for job shares in particular and telling the stories not just of job share partners, but of their managers.

Harvey Francis, Executive Vice President of Skanska UK, said the firm had recently launched a Flex It initiative to ensure that every role has an element of flexible working as long as productivity is maintained and the needs of the team and individuals are met. Many of Skanska’s employees are site-based and Francis said it is important that frontline workers also have access to flexible working. Skanska research shows over 60% of site-based workers want some degree of flexible working. Francis fears that they will lose staff if they don’t adapt and said he hoped the initiative would be “a game changer”.

Andrew Pakes, Director of Communications & Research at Prospect Union, spoke of how Prospect has been championing a right to disconnect for workers who have faced pressure to be ‘always on’, with all the negative impact this has for those with family responsibilities. Prospect has been working with Telefonica and talking to Renault who have just signed a global agreement on a right to disconnect for teleworkers.

Asked what could make a difference to embedding a hybrid culture, Braun said senior leaders working from home part of the week would set a strong example and avoid an in-group of permanent office workers and a two-tier workplace forming. Stewart said formalised processes are necessary to avoid bias against hybrid or home workers and to ensure people’s work is measured on results rather than presence. Francis stated that more oversight of decisions made by line managers could help avoid bias.

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