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Still not advertising flexible jobs? Here’s why you should

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) shared that the number of job vacancies in the UK from August to October 2022 was 1,225,000, with a slight fall from previous records, but still high, with the tightest labour market the UK has seen in decades. Despite the shortage of labour, employers are potentially missing out on a vital part of Britain’s workforce, part-time workers. 

During this historic talent drought, flexibility has never been in higher demand. 9 in 10 people want flexible work, yet only 3 in 10 permanent job adverts offer it–and that figure is up only 4% from last year’s 26%. Just 30% of roles are being advertised as flexible, and a tiny 12% of roles are being advertised as part-time, which is surprisingly low considering how the shift to hybrid work during lockdown showed both employers and employees the possibilities of integrating flexibility into their everyday work life. Why aren’t more businesses seizing this obvious advantage in the war for talent?

Who is affected the most?

There are four applicants for every part-time job–so employers are potentially losing out, as are parents, carers, and people with disabilities or other needs that make it difficult to work full-time, as these factions are most likely to need flexibility within their careers. Especially when one considers how feminised sectors such as social care and nursing have always offered the most flexibility. Many office-based roles are now catching up thanks to hybrid patterns, but other sectors lag far behind, particularly those in the foundational economy which struggles to offer remote working. This inclusivity failure manifests itself in issues like the gender pay gap. Women who transition to part-time work while they raise a family are often unable to take their part-time arrangement with them in a promotion or a move to a new employer. Some are forced to leave the workforce altogether and struggle to re-enter it. 

There is also a divide in play, with part-time jobs mostly at the bottom of the pay scale and flexible roles mostly at the top–meaning skilled professionals who are only able to work part-time often lose out on higher-paying jobs and settle on lower-paid opportunities below their skill level. Opening more flexible opportunities at higher salary levels, especially part-time ones, will unlock progression routes for them as well. Especially in some well-paid industries like technology and manufacturing, where the proportion of flexible jobs remains extremely low, despite severe candidate shortages.

It’s important to add that these figures only relate to permanent roles. More insecure forms of employment like zero-hours contracts and freelancing offer great flexibility for employers but tend to offer little autonomy and control for workers, so they were not included in the study.

But why are employers so reluctant to offer flexible and part-time work upfront?

The Index polled 1,000 senior decision-makers across SMEs and larger organisations and found three core reasons for the lack of part-time and flexible job advertisements:

  1. Inertia: For some leaders, flexible working is not on the agenda, simply because they don’t deem it important enough. However, by doing so, they are potentially losing out on a vital part of the working population. It is time employers consider flexibility as more than a benefit that’s ‘nice to have’ and more as an essential tool to help fill open vacancies that are otherwise hard to fill.
  2. Lack of understanding: There is also a big knowledge gap when it comes to flexible hiring. Employers do not necessarily know how to design flexible jobs, or they question whether flexible work is compatible with their business needs, culture, and infrastructure. This is more evident in sectors like manufacturing, where it is more difficult to build flexibility into their workers’ schedules. People are reluctant to hire part-timers for shift-based or management roles.
  3. Fear and mistrust: Anxieties around flexible working are common. Business leaders often assume that people who want to work flexibly may not be committed to the job. One common concern is that offering flexibility will create jealousy or increase unmeetable demands from existing staff.

The Way Forward:

While these fears are understandable, they aren’t enough to continue resisting change. Training can be offered for hiring managers to design flexible jobs for a range of roles, with different flexibility patterns including part-time. Job adverts can be made more transparent, specifying which forms of flexible working are possible for the role, to attract the right kind of talent. More flexible opportunities can be opened at higher salary levels, to unlock progression routes for skilled professionals. 

Offering flexible and part-time roles give employers a vital edge in the intensifying war for talent since flexible working has become a significant tool to attract talent, despite the inevitable focus on pay. Besides that, during the current cost of living crisis, making work available to the many talented people who are unable to work full-time is becoming a social imperative. Those who are not in work are suffering the most from the escalating cost of living, and based on research, an estimated 3.7 million people are struggling with insecure work and low pay. Despite the economic situation, the talent drought in the electronics and high-tech sectors is not likely to ease up any time soon. With birth rates falling, long-term ill health on the rise, and Brexit reducing available EU workers, employers cannot afford to keep waiting for their old recruitment and retention strategies to start working again.

Leaders who invest time and money in making the switch to offering flexible or part-time roles will quickly reap the financial rewards. 

Redline Group continue to be one of the UK’s most trusted Electronics and High Technology recruitment specialist for professional Contract, Permanent and Executive positions. With four decades of experience in knowledge-led recruitment, Redline is perfectly positioned to offer advice about future-proofing your permanent, contract and interim needs in the technology sector. Call 01582 450054 or email us on Info@RedlineGroup.Com


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