New report: CBI warns businesses should do more to encourage flexible working

Flexible working debate

The CBI is calling for businesses to take flexible working more seriously, following the publishing of a YouGov poll yesterday which showed that around 42% of workers would feel uncomfortable asking their employer if they could work more flexibly.

This comes despite the fact that almost nine in 10 businesses claim to offer flexible working, such as working from home, or adjustable hours which fit around school or childcare, for example.

The survey, which questioned 1,300 workers for the CBI’s Great Business Debate, found that men and women are equally hesitant about broaching the subject of flexible working with their employers, even though 37% of respondents said they found balancing work and family life difficult.

“Companies of all sizes rely on their people for success and want to make use of the best talents available. But many men and women who want to work, or work more hours, may feel rigid working patterns can conflict with home commitments,” said Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general. “A lot of companies offer flexible working but the onus should be on businesses to presume in favour, challenge outdated assumptions and give their employees more confidence to ask about the options.”

The findings were launched by the CBI yesterday at a roundtable event hosted by parenting network Mumsnet which was attended by major companies including Barclays, Centrica and Siemens, along with family campaigners and parents.

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet CEO said, “Mumsnet users consistently tell us that flexible working is the number one priority when it comes to family friendly practices. All the evidence suggests that flexibility at work, and an acknowledgement of the importance of work-life balance, increases productivity among working parents and allows employers to retain talented staff who would otherwise struggle to cope with the demands of raising a family, not to mention the cost of childcare.”

Within yesterday’s discussion, the stigma attached to flexible working emerged as a critical factor for employees. “Some felt that the term flexible working itself was conjured up ideas of young mums working part time – and there’s still much to do to challenge those outdated assumptions. Managers need to make sure they are having open, honest and individual conversations with their employees,” the CBI reports. Additionally, it was felt that bigger firms have a responsibility to lead by example, share best practice and even lend support to smaller firms in supply chains.

To boost flexible working the CBI is calling for:

  • Businesses to adopt a presumption in favour of flexibility, from the job advert stage onwards, where possible
  • Businesses to commit to meaningful diversity policies and, where possible, to publish aspirational diversity targets
  • Businesses to show greater openness to job-sharing in more senior roles and ensuring recruitment processes maximise the diversity of shortlists

The CBI is also urging the Government to do more to help families with the cost of childcare, including extending the current 15 hours of free childcare for three and four year olds to children aged one and two, and extending maternity pay from 39 weeks to 52 weeks to close the gap between maternity leave and when free childcare becomes available.

The full Mumsnet debate can be followed here and you can join the conversation on Twitter via @bizdebate and the hashtag #flexibleworking.

Additionally, if you’d like to find out more about your right to request flexible working, please check out our blog post and infographic on the subject.

Does your company offer flexible working options? Do you have any experiences to share? We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.

 

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