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Flexible hour requests drop with rise in homeworking


The CIPD has urged employers to look beyond offering only remote work and instead develop a number of flexible working options.

Its analysis of the ONS Labour Force Survey found homeworking has been the only flexible arrangement that has increased since the onset of the pandemic, creating concerns about how employers accommodate those who are unable to do so.

When comparing the last quarter of 2020 with January to March 2021, homeworking requests have roughly doubled from 5.3% to 10.1%.

The use of part-time hours fell from 28.3% in April to June 2020 to 27.6% in October to December 2020.

During the same period the use of flexi-time fell from 12.7% to 12.6%. This is despite many people needing to balance work with other commitments, such as home schooling, childcare or other caring responsibilities, or volunteering.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said homeworking must not be the only flexible working arrangement available, as it will limit people’s ability to have a good work/life balance.  

He said: “Employers should take action to offer and encourage the uptake of a broad range of options that give opportunities for everyone to have more choice and flexibility in how they work.

“If the use of other flexible working arrangements continues to fall this will drive many questions about fairness and equality in the workplace for those whose jobs require them to be in a place of work.”

Increased flexible working can positively impact the workforce in many ways he added.

“More flexible working in all its forms helps to attract and retain people with a broad diversity of needs and expectations about how they work, thereby fostering more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

“It can also be good for wellbeing and productivity,” he said.

Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser for resourcing and inclusion at the CIPD, told HR magazine that more than ever, employees want to work in flexible ways to support their work and personal responsibilities.

She said: "It’s important that HR take this on board and think creatively about flexible working arrangements, or risk losing key talent.

“While flexibility in location, such as opportunities to work from home or remotely, will be welcomed for those in roles where they are able to do this, HR also need to think about flexibility in hours."

McCartney said this means promoting a range of options such as flexi-time, job-shares and compressed hours to suit organisational and individual needs.

"This will help to address inequalities in the workforce and give people a greater say over not just where they work but when they work," she said. 

The ONS Labour Force Survey analysed responses from 74,832 people between October and December 2020.

More on flexible work:

‘Iceberg’ of discontent over flexible working expected post-pandemic

Flexible workers battle 'work from home' stigma

Four-day week is affordable and could boost productivity, finds report