Employers struggle as more staff ask for flexible hours

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 26 November 2019

Work-life balance scale

A new survey has found that more than four in ten employers say they need help implementing flexible working as the demand for flexible hours rises.

The research, conducted by workingmums.co.uk, has found that 85% of employers expect demand for flexible working to increase. And it's not just parents that are driving this trend, it seems.

The poll of 200 employers has found that 37% of employers say there is demand for flexible working from all groups of employees, while 35% say demand is mainly from parents and 23% say it is mainly from mums. However, 31% of employers polled say they are getting more dads asking for flexible hours, 20% are getting more older workers and 29% are getting more non-parents.

The findings also suggest that employers see flexible working as a key way to address skills shortages. Over half (56%) of employers say they are having trouble finding people with the right skills. To reach a wider candidate base, many employers are making clear in their job adverts that they support flexible working - 62% already mention that they are open to flexible working in their job adverts and 71% say they intend to do so in the future.

Flexible working is also a key factor in recruiting a more diverse workforce, the findings show. Nearly half - 48% of employers - have been actively trying to recruit more women in the past 12 months and 47% say they aim to actively recruit more women in the next year. In addition, 24% are actively recruiting older workers now and 32% say they may need to actively recruit older workers in the future.

Other results of the survey show that:

  • Over one third of employers have turned to freelancers and contractors to fill skills gaps;
  • 18% of employers have a returner programme and 32% are considering starting one;
  • 68% use social media to recruit, more than the number who use recruitment agencies, but slightly fewer than those who use jobs sites.

"The survey throws up some interesting results," said Gillian Nissim, founder of workingmums.co.uk. "Particularly interesting is the number of employers who say they need more support to deal with the demand for flexible working. This shows that there needs to be some carrot along with the stick of stronger enforcement of flexible working legislation and new rights for employees.

"The world of work is changing very fast and many employers have adapted on an ad hoc basis, which can build up problems for the future. They need help to take a step back and strategise for the future."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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