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More to be done on flexible working, says Working Families

A third of adults do not think it has become easier to combine work and life, Working Families research reveals

A third (33%) of UK adults do not think it’s easier to combine work and caring responsibilities than it was a decade ago, according to research published by Working Families.

The poll of more than 2,000 people was conducted to celebrate the businesses that have been employer members of Working Families for at least 10 years, including Barclays, EY and PwC.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, told HR magazine that the results reflect the misuse of flexible working by some employers and a lack of communication.

She explained that highly-skilled workers tend to be overloaded with work and are often given flexible working as an accommodation. At the other end of the market, low-skilled workers are often led to think that flexible working means working in an unpredictable fashion.

“Flexible working is no substitute for thinking properly about workload and work design,” Jackson added.

However the poll also revealed that a quarter (24%) of people think it has got easier to combine work and caring responsibilities.

Jackson said Working Families’ employer members have led the way in implementing flexible working. “They understand that flexible working is more than a policy; they’ve really thought carefully about the culture that they’re trying to achieve,” she said.

Allen & Overy is one of the 21 members celebrating 10 years of Working Families membership.

The firm’s global HR director Sasha Hardman told HR magazine flexible working had “a massive impact” on employee engagement. “It’s a really good indicator of the extent to which you trust and empower your employees,” she said.

Diversity and inclusion manager Jo Dooley added: “Technology has shifted in ways we didn’t envisage 10 years ago. It’s now a way of working [whereas] 10 years ago we really had to think through the implications.”

Despite flexible working becoming more common, and 2014’s right to request flexible working legislation, Jackson said there is still more to be done to embed genuine cultures of flexibility in businesses.

“[Flexible working] should be a day one right,” she said. “Many of our members are quite happy to talk to employees [about flexible working] at the point of recruitment. It makes much more sense than forcing [employees] into the wrong-shaped box for six months and then have the hassle of changing things.”

She also added that employers need to get away from the idea that flexible working is just for mothers.

“Let’s go back to reason neutrality,” she said. “Flexible working has got to be there in your vision for the organisation. You’ve got to be saying ‘this is absolutely part of the DNA of this organisation’.”

HR magazine is media partner of the Working Families awards, which are now open for entry.