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The future of flexible work

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Benefits of flexible working
Genuine flexible work has significant benefits for working people. 

It is invaluable in helping people achieve a balance between work and home life and is also associated with improved wellbeing[1]. Recent ONS analysis[2], showed that workers feel the main advantages of homeworking are an improved work-life balance and a reduction in time taken to complete work.  

As well as offering benefits to people across the workforce, making flexible working available in all but the most exceptional of circumstances would be an important catalyst for promoting greater gender equality. Research[3] has shown that many of the underlying causes of the gender pay gap are connected to a lack of quality jobs offering flexible work. Due to the unequal division of unpaid care, women often end up having to apply for part-time work, with 75 per cent of part-time workers being women[4].  

Often falsely positioned as a ‘choice’ women make to care for their children, a lack of good flexible working opportunities forces women into accepting often poorly paid, part-time jobs, exacerbating the gender pay gap. Part-time workers are paid less than full-time workers with equivalent qualifications and have fewer career, pay and progression opportunities compared to full-time workers[5].  

Making flexible work the default would also help to address some of the barriers disabled workers[6], those experiencing domestic abuse[7], carers[8] and women experiencing the menopause face in the workplace[9]. Flexible work[10], for example, phased retirement, would also allow older workers to stay in the workforce for longer and remote working has the potential to help address geographic inequality by opening up higher paid office-based jobs, disproportionately located in London and the South East, to workers across the country.  

Benefits for employers include boosting productivity, increased staff retention and improved recruitment. A study by the Government Equalities Office found that jobs advertised flexibly attracted 30 per cent more applicants than those that did not[11].  RCM research also shows that 76 per cent of midwives who have left the job might return if there were opportunities to work flexibly[12].  NAHT also reported to us that a lack of work-home life balance is a significant reason that teachers are reluctant to apply for senior leadership roles, so providing flexible work could be a successful factor in increasing retention and promotion of teachers.

However, despite these clear advantages there is a clear mismatch between the proportion of workers wanting flexible work and those who are able to access it.  

[6] Disabled workers have additional rights in accessing flexibility as a reasonable adjustment  

[9] cent20toolkitper cent20Engper cent20FINAL.pdf 

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