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Getting a new job which is flexible can be hard. Should companies explicitly state in job adverts that they welcome flexible working?
Although there has been a lot of focus recently on the extension of the right to request flexible working and Government figures show around 90% of flexible working applications are granted, many women feel this applies only to people who are already in a job. Not those who might have been out of the workplace for months or years or those seeking to find a new position.
The Workingmums site was specifically set up to help women who are looking for new positions with are flexible and it has been inundated with applicants. There are currently around 14,000 mothers registered on the site from all over the UK and across 26 industry sectors. The calibre of candidates is high – they include chief executives, lawyers, accounts managers, IT executives and editors, many with between 10 and 20 years’ experience. What they want is to find new flexible working positions. A survey of over 600 mothers by Workingmums found that 90% found it very difficult to find flexible work. A particular problem was finding flexible work that used their skills and paid the same pro rata as similar full-time positions.
Women who are looking to find flexible work often complain that there appears to be little on offer and that they are never sure when to raise the issue in interviews.
“It’s the dreaded question. The elephant in the room. They may say they are all for equal opportunities, but you just know that if it was between you and another candidate and you asked about flexible working you would be marked down,” said one woman who preferred to remain anonymous.
Would advertising that a company is open to flexible working applicants make any difference?
A search of web-based employer recruitment guides suggests not many companies have considered this. The only reference to the importance of expressly stating in the recruitment ad that flexible working is available, was in a document by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission.
The Chartered Institute of Professional Development, whilst not mentioning the issue of openly advertising flexible options, does state that employers must market themselves in increasingly clever ways to reach the talent they need. And it does say that those organisations that are genuinely interested in tapping into the talent of those who require more flexible arrangements should explicitly state that such arrangements will be considered for the right candidate. It adds that case studies of currently employed individuals should include people doing jobs flexibly.
Some organisations say that they are open to recruitment people who work flexibly and feel that this is reflected by their flexible working policy and also by a reference in a job advert to being an equal opportunities employer. But for many this does not go far enough.
Katie Slater, co-founder of career management company A Brave New World, says: “Companies seem to very rarely mention in job adverts that the job offers flexible working options. It would be so much more helpful if they mentioned it upfront as we find that returnees find it difficult to bring it up at interview or to know when to approach the subject. If it is clear that the company welcomes applicants looking for flexibility then the subject can easily be discussed at the interview stage.”
Slater recommends that candidates bring up the subject at interview, but in an indirect way, for example, through asking if the company has a flexible work policy. “This emphasises flexible working as something positive rather than being a problem area,” she says.
Citi does recruit a minority of people on reduced work schedules. “But it is more common that it is an accommodation that is reached with existing staff,” says Minashi. She adds that the current legislation on flexible working can be a hindrance as it only grants people the right to request flexible working after they have worked somewhere for a year.
Minashi says that the company is prepared to make accommodations for highly talented new staff. One director, for instance, has very clear start and stop times for her work. “She was very clear and confident about this and her manager was very accommodating.
She adds that people who have left Citi and had flexible working arrangements there had been bold about requesting similar arrangements elsewhere so a good experience of flexible working could boost confidence down the line. It also creates company loyalty, meaning staff are less likely to want to move. “It’s one of the benefits that is rarely discussed,” states Minashi.
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