Government-led taskforce publishes employer guidance on championing flexible working

Peter Cheese

A government and employer-led taskforce focusing on encouraging flexible working has today (Monday 14 January 2019) published guidance for organisations on how to champion flexibility.

The Flexible Working Taskforce, established in March 2018, is a working partnership across various government departments, business groups, trade unions and charities that aims to widen the availability and take-up of flexible working.

Co-chaired by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), partnering organisations include the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), Age UK, Carers UK, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), HM Treasury, the Timewise Foundation, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Working Families.

The campaign encourages employers to advertise all jobs as flexible, regardless of seniority level or pay grade, by using the strapline ‘Happy to talk flexible working’ within their job adverts. Those organisations participating in the taskforce have already committed to this.

As part of the campaign, the taskforce is promoting the business benefits associated with flexible working. This includes the ability to address skill and labour shortages by making work more accessible to older individuals or those with caring responsibilities, improving productivity by increasing motivation, satisfaction, engagement and wellbeing, reducing sickness absence, improving staff retention and creating more diverse workforces, which can also impact the gender pay gap by facilitating more opportunities for women to progress into senior roles.

Kelly Tolhurst, business minister, said: “Working flexibly helps people to balance their work and home lives and is vital in creating an inclusive economy and diverse workforce. It also gives employers access to a wider pool of talent and enables better matching of applicants and jobs.

“The government is committed to enhancing the quality of work, which is why we have recently set out major workplace reforms to give millions of workers, including flexible workers, new rights and protections; the biggest upgrade in workers’ rights in a generation. To build on this upgrade, we will also be considering a duty for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly and to make that clear when advertising a vacancy.

“We want to ensure the UK continues to lead the world in addressing the challenges of the changing world of work, and the Flexible Working Taskforce plays a valuable role in this endeavour, with a great forum through which we can make flexible working a reality for all employees.”

Peter Cheese (pictured), chief executive at the CIPD and co-chair of the Flexible Working Taskforce, added: “Providing more flexible opportunities for how, when and where people work should be part of every organisation’s strategy to attract and retain the talent and skills they need.

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“Employers need to consider, and address, the barriers holding them back from adopting flexible working practices more widely, be it entrenched organisational cultures or making sure line managers are trained to support and manage flexible [employees].

“By encouraging many more jobs to be advertised as flexible as the default option, the taskforce is challenging outdated attitudes to flexible working that still prevail in some organisations, and laying down a marker for other employers to follow.”