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Just one in seven roles advertised as flexible

Progress has been slow on advertising flexible positions, with jobs in HR falling below the average

Just one in seven jobs (15%) are advertised as flexible in the UK, according to analysis by flexible working consultancy Timewise.

While the figures show some improvement on last year’s proportion of 11% of roles, the research warned that this still falls short of demand, with Timewise's 2017 research finding that 87% of employees want to work flexibly.

The problem is especially acute for workers trying to move from low-paid part-time jobs to middle-earning part-time jobs, the report found. More than a fifth (23%) of vacancies in the lowest pay band (under £20,000) offer flexible working. But at the next level (£20,000 to £59,000) this drops off to 14%.

The growth rate in flexible jobs has been fastest among higher-paid roles. In adverts for jobs paid more than £60,000 (full time or equivalent) the availability of flexible working has trebled over four years, from 5% in 2016 to 15% now.

When looking at flexible working by sector Timewise found that HR jobs ranked just below the UK average for being advertised as flexible, with 14% of roles advertised as such. This means that 86% of HR jobs were advertised with no flexible working option.

Those in junior HR jobs had even fewer openly-flexible working options. One in 10 (11%) junior HR jobs contained an option to work flexibly compared to 15% of HR manager and director jobs.

At the start of 2019 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the CIPD launched a Flexible Working Task Force, with the aim of encouraging all employers to advertise all jobs as flexible regardless of level or pay grade. In July Conservative MP Helen Whately took a bill to parliament calling for all roles to be advertised as flexible in a move backed by charity campaigners.

Speaking to HR magazine, co-founder of Timewise Karen Mattison said it is surprising how slow HR professionals have been to work flexibly themselves. “You would sort of expect, given everything we know, that HR would lead the way and be above average. I think they, like other professions, are very focused on the flexibility they can give for the people working for them, but they’re not being quick enough to translate that into growing the workforce,” she said.

She added that HR practitioners have also been slow to see flexible working as something to be offered to new as well as existing staff: "We have a situation where they’re thinking about employees but not candidates. In general, as HR professionals, we’re not thinking as much about hiring as we are about working."

Mattison added that advertising roles as flexible can lead to fundamental changes that benefit businesses: “There are two elements that could be transformative for employers. If they really took this on they could see that that the gender pay gap would disappear over time, because people wouldn’t feel they need to trade their skills for flexibility. And they would find that they could be hugely attractive to candidates.

"Employers are missing a trick in being way ahead of their competitors. If you can’t offer work flexibly then don’t say that you can. But if you can offer it why on Earth wouldn’t you say so when you hire?”