In August 2020, WACL began leading a call for organisations to commit to being #FlexibleFirst by adopting flexible working in all its forms and at scale. To support companies looking to build their foundations of flexible working and check their progress, we created a #FlexibleFirst Toolkit and case studies, alongside a Checklist backed by CMI and ISBA. In 2021, we know the impact of a global pandemic has forced a once-in-a-generation re-examination of the ‘future of work’.
A decade of UK macroeconomic and survey data, together with our growing body of case studies developed with highly experienced business leaders, prove the business case and the benefits to the workforce.
When organisations offer genuine, two-way flexible working, this is a win-win for employers and employees alike with benefits for everyone, regardless of gender, and directly reduces the Gender Pay Gap.
#FlexibleFirst is a powerful lever for employers as they tackle two major, board-level goals: the war for talent and diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging.
Two reasons WACL is weighing in with this campaign
1. This is part of our core purpose to accelerate gender equality.
The wholly disproportionate impact of the pandemic on working women – particularly women of colour and women with disabilities – known as the ‘pandemic penalty’ creates the urgency to act before a long term gender crisis takes hold. Flexible working is a proven, powerful solution for organisations to adopt now:
“If we further develop the new ways of working that everyone has adjusted to during the pandemic, including building more flexible working options for employees, there is a real opportunity to increase the diversity of our workforce. This will not only help businesses by harnessing a range of talents but also help reduce some of the inequality that exists in our society.” ~ Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of Equality & Human Rights Commission
2. Lockdown has demonstrated working flexibly is productive.
Our collective learning during the pandemic is that flexible (and remote) working is as productive as working 9-to-5, five days a week in an office.
It is simply the case that reality lags perception:
- Whilst COVID-19 has driven an increase in remote working, 46% of UK employees still do not have flexible working in their current role (source: CIPD)
- The right to request flexible working as enshrined in UK law still only applies after the first 26 weeks of employment
- Even by the time lockdown eased in June 2020, only 22% of new roles were advertised as flexible (Timewise Flexible Jobs Index 2020)
This is despite the facts:
- 87% (92% amongst 18-34 yr olds) of both men and women in the UK want to work flexibly (Source: Timewise Flexible Jobs Index, 2020)
- The pandemic has clearly demonstrated how outdated, unhelpful and unnecessary it is to ask anyone to wait 26 weeks before they can request flexible working. CIPD has called for a change to UK law to make flexible working requests a ‘day-one right for all employees ’, and the Women & Equalities Select Committee are also recommending the 26-weeks’ service threshold be removed.
- Research shows offering flexible working explicitly in job ads would increase applications by up to 30% (Behavioural Insights Team & Indeed research, March 2021)
- The Government Equalities Office also acknowledged the need for change, calling “for employers to make flexible working a standard option for employees, to help level-up the UK, boost opportunities for women and reduce geographic inequality as we recover from COVID-19.”
This is why WACL is committed to setting the industry standard.