Task Force calls for more action to promote business case for flexible working

More needs to be done to promote the business case for flexible working if Britain is to achieve major cultural change in the way we work, a Government taskforce report says today.
More needs to be done to promote the business case for flexible working if Britain is to achieve major cultural change in the way we work, a Government taskforce report says today.
The report by the Family Friendly Working Taskforce, made up of representatives from business, NGOs, government departments and other sectors is published today by the Department for Work and Pensions. Its recommendations include that Government should lead by example by encouraging public sectors bodies to clearly indicate where jobs can be worked flexibly and to consider whether a role can be worked flexibly; that existing examples of good practice by employers be promoted; and that Job Centres Plus talk to employers about the benefits of advertising posts flexibly.
Publication of the report follows an interview with Yvette Cooper, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in the Independent on Sunday where she says women often accept part-time work which is below their skills so limiting their career progression.  The Government is also said to be considering offering flexible working from day one of a new job – currently those eligible can only request flexible working after six months in a new post.
Cooper said that Whitehall hopes to provide a good example of flexible working by advertising jobs as part-time or flexible hours.
The task force report draws on a survey which found that 65 per cent of employers who introduced flexible hours found a fall in absence levels and higher retention rates as a result. Some 70% cited greater staff motivation. It is also found that many people in part-time jobs were working below their skill level, particularly women, and that part-time jobs were limited to particular sectors.
Women are at the centre of the political parties’ election campaigns, particularly working mums. Labour, for example, has reportedly identified 53 constituencies where mothers could swing the vote and is posting personalised postcards to more than 100,000 mums who use Sure Start.
Commenting on the report, Gillian Nissim, founder of www.workingmums.co.uk, said: “Www.workingmums.co.uk welcomes the task force report on flexible working. Our annual surveys show year on year that availability of flexible working is the key issue for working mums, ranking much higher than issues like the cost of childcare.
“We also believe it is vital that flexible working be seen not simply as a perk for employees, but as making good business sense. Survey after survey shows that it reduces absence levels and overheads as well as increasing motivation, retention and recruitment.
Www.workingmums.co.uk also believes that, for a full cultural change in the way we work, the right to request flexible working needs to be available to all employees and at all levels so that women do not find their careers being sidelined. As the survey shows, many women are working below their skill level in order to get the flexibility they need. This is not only demotivating for them, but means their employer is losing out on their experience and skills. A growing number of employers now realise this. What is needed is for these experiences to be given more of a spotlight to encourage others to follow suit.”
Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of the charity Working Families, said: “We need to move away from the full time default setting and ensure many more jobs are offered on a flexible or part time basis. The Government and public sector can take the lead in shifting discussions about flexible working to the recruitment stage, so that a working pattern that suits both employer and employee is decided at the outset, saving time and money later.
“Job centres could also help private sector employers rethink what skills they require and whether a job really needs to be offered only on a 9-5, 35 hour week basis. At a time of recession, every employer needs to be fishing from the widest possible talent pool. Our full time culture means too many talents are wasted – particularly women and carers’ – and the UK loses out.
“Flexible working is not a “perk” for the good times. The UK cannot afford to overlook the business benefits that flexible working can bring. There is a positive link between flexible working and performance. Costs of absenteeism, sickness and recruitment are reduced.   There could not be a more important time to get the right talent in the right place: flexible working can achieve this goal.”
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