Use of flexible hours drops due to pandemic

The use of flexible hours has dramatically dropped since the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic began – mainly because people have been forced to work from home.

This is the main conclusion of new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which found forms of flexible working – such as part-time, flexi-time and compressed hours – had recently fallen.

Comparing October-December with April-June last year, the study discovered that the use of part-time working had decreased from 28.3% to 27.6% and the use of flexi-time had fallen from 12.7% to 12.6%, while annualised hours was down from 6.4% to 6.2%.

The only arrangement that had increased was ‘flexible location’, such as working from home, which rose from 7.8% to 10.1%. When comparing the last quarter of 2020 with January-March 2020, home working had roughly doubled from 5.3% to 10.1%.

But while the CIPD claimed the results are largely to be expected, it expressed concern that the fall in usage of flexible hours could set a dangerous precedent – and impact staff adversely at a time when they still have to juggle competing care and home needs.

In response to its research, the organisation is urging employers to increase access to a range of flexible working options, to address inequalities in the workforce and give people a greater say over not just where they work, but when.

The CIPD is also calling for employers and the government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right through its #FlexFrom1st campaign, rather than after 26 weeks of employment as is the current requirement.

Commenting on the findings Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: “There’s been a huge shift to home working since the Coronavirus pandemic. But our analysis shows a concerning downward trend emerging for all other forms of flexible working. If the use of other flexible working arrangements continues to fall this will drive many questions about fairness and equality in the workplace for those whose jobs require them to be in a place of work.”

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He added: “Home working must not be the only flexible working arrangement available, and employers should take action to offer and encourage the uptake of a broad range of options that give opportunities for everyone to have more choice and flexibility in how they work.”

He said: “More flexible working in all its forms helps to attract and retain people with a broad diversity of needs and expectations about how they work, thereby fostering more diverse and inclusive workplaces. It can also be good for wellbeing and productivity.”