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businesses still need to do more on flexible working

YouGov poll reveals men as reluctant as women to ask employers for flexibility

The CBI is calling for more businesses to commit to a presumption in favour of flexible working and to introduce meaningful diversity policies.

Almost nine in every 10 firms offer some form of flexible working, but a YouGov poll of nearly 1300 workers for the CBI’s Great Business Debate suggests too many workers are reluctant to ask their employer about the options. Men are just as uncomfortable asking for flexibility as women and both genders find it equally difficult to balance work and family life.

The survey is being launched at an event with the parenting network Mumsnet today. Among the measures the CBI is calling for to boost flexibility in the workplace are: firms to advertise jobs flexibly from the outset and to publish aspirational diversity targets, as well as the Government to provide more help with childcare costs.

Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:

As employees, our experiences of working life have a big impact on our view of business.”

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.

“Flexibility is not just for parents but for all staff. It can work for everyone including businesses”

A lot of companies offer flexible working but the onus should be on businesses to presume in favour, challenge outdated assumptions and give their employees more confidence to ask about the options.

Flexibility is not just for parents but for all staff. It can work for everyone including businesses. That’s why we’re calling for businesses to encourage flexibility from the job ad onwards, as well as the Government to help families with childcare costs.”

The survey’s key findings are:

  • It seems, many employers are doing a good job of encouraging flexible working, as 40% of all employees said they would feel comfortable asking their employer about working more flexibly but 42% said they would feel uncomfortable
  • The figures were almost identical for men and women. This despite the fact that over 85% of respondents to the CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey said their company offers forms of flexible working, such as non-standard hours or home working
  • Asked how they find balancing work and family life, 61% said easy and 37% said difficult. Again, there was no significant difference between the responses from men and women

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 Great Business Debate, the CBI’s campaign to increase trust in business, is holding a roundtable event with Mumsnet today which will be attended by major companies,including Barclays, Centrica and Siemens, family campaigners, Mumsnetters and Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts. It will be chaired by the CBI’s Deputy Director-General, Katja Hall. The discussion will examine what businesses are offering now and what more they should and could do to boost flexible working.

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.

Through our Family Friendly programme, we work with companies to introduce innovative family-friendly policies. Ideally, though, such innovations would be the rule rather than the exception brought in by a pioneering few.”

Comments from Mumsnet users taking part in an online debate leading up to the event included:
  • My employer has been great at adopting flexible working across the entire department including equipping everyone for home working. This has made a massive difference to all parents, not just mothers.”
  • We all understand that employers have a company to run but if they are flexible the employee becomes more loyal and more inclined to be flexible back.”
  • There is a huge untapped skilled workforce of mothers, who are experienced, professional women unable to work. I know this because I am one.

 

At The Great Business Debate we will continue promoting discussion between organisations and individuals on this issue.

Let us know what you think by sharing your views with us on twitter @bizdebate and don’t miss out on regular updates straight to your inbox — sign up to receive our newsletter here.

 

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