Part-time policy boosts gender equality

New analysis by Zurich shows its policy of advertising all roles as potentially part time or open to job shares has accelerated the number of women applying to the firm.


Chris Stirling works part time as a technology consultant for insurance company Zurich, based in Glasgow. He dropped his hours in 2020 due to childcare issues and is also able to flex his hours so that he can also take his son Oliver to school.

That flexibility means he has been able to use his graphic design skills to support local charities and his church.  During lockdown, he supported his church with producing online services.

Chris [pictured with his family], who has also been able to take three months paternity leave on full pay with his daughter, says: “My working pattern means I get the best of both worlds, the variety of work but also quality time with my kids.”

Of the paternity leave, he adds: “The time off meant I could look after them both but also spend valuable time with Oliver – enjoying lots of the things I couldn’t do when he was born – play dates, soft play and so on.”

Chris is just one of the parents to benefit from Zurich’s flexible working and parental leave policies, in particular its promotion of part-time working. In late 2020 the insurer became the first UK company to offer all its jobs on a part-time or flexible basis after research with the Government found that the lack of part-time roles at senior level was one of the main blocks to getting more female applicants for those jobs, contributing to the gender pay gap.

Zurich also uses gender neutral language in job adverts and says its new policies have boosted the number of women applying for jobs by 16%. According to new figures released today, this trend accelerated in 2022. Between January and November Zurich reports a 95% year-on-year increase in the number of female part-time workers it has hired, while the number of part-time male workers tripled over the same period. 

Overall, five times more female part-time workers were hired in 2022 compared to 2019 when the initiative started.  Part-time workers made up 13.5% of all Zurich UK hires in 2022, up from 10.7% in 2021 and 6.5% in 2019.  Since the beginning of 2019, 89% of part-time starters have been female compared to 11% of men. 

Meanwhile, from January to November 2022, Zurich says 45% more women were hired into senior roles at Zurich UK compared to the same period in 2019 (62 to 90). 2022 saw 17% more women hired into senior roles than in 2021. 

It adds that, overall, the number of applications per vacancy climbed to 20 in 2022 compared to just 13 in the 12 months prior to the job advert wording changes in 2019. 

Zurich has also become the first insurer to sign up to Roleshare, a service which matches applicants searching for part time and job share roles with employers. 

Steve Collinson, Chief HR Officer at Zurich UK, said: “The pandemic accelerated demand for flexible working, but our data shows that offering roles as part time can also be a real driver in bringing more women into an organisation, especially in senior roles. 

“As advocates of flexible working for over a decade, we are proud of the success of this initiative and pleased to see that the positive trends are all heading in the right direction.” 

Donna Wayman [pictured right], Head of UK Portfolio, is one of the women who has benefited from Zurich’s part-time policy. She has worked part-time hours over four days for the last seven years after returning from maternity leave in order to have more time with her children and to have time for her role as a Trustee for the baby loss charity Aching Arms, which she got involved in after losing her daughter Violet during pregnancy nine years ago.  

She says that the flexibility of her hours has been a major driver in accepting the Trustee role.   “I also value the time from a wellbeing perspective, giving me time to meet friends, go to the gym and get ‘life admin’ done which means my weekends are left for good quality family time,” she adds. 


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