Why now is the right time to #flextheUK
Published: 18 Jun 2020
by Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive, Working Families
Working Families’ #flextheUK campaign comes at a pivotal moment for flexible working. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless employers have responded to the crisis by developing and supporting new ways of working in record time. According to the ONS, only 5% of workers in the UK worked mostly from home before COVID-19. At the peak of the pandemic, this number skyrocketed to 40%. The way in which the business world has adapted to the crisis—whether it’s been a shift to remote working or encouraging flexible hours—proves that flexibility is possible on a much wider scale than employers had ever considered before.
COVID-19 has been especially challenging for working parents and carers left without childcare. Many have had to work early in the morning or late into the night so they can look after—and in many cases home-school—their children, leaving them stressed and exhausted. Whilst the kind of flexible working parents have experienced during lockdown is far from ideal, what it has done is prove that flexibility can be unlocked in many more jobs than previously thought. Our new survey of over 1,000 parents and carers shows that while 65% of respondents worked flexibly before the pandemic, 84% are now working flexibly.
Parents and carers overwhelmingly want to keep this flexibility in the post-pandemic future. Our survey found that more than 9 in 10 parents and carers who took part want their workplace to retain flexible working after COVID-19. And almost half of respondents (48%) plan to actively make changes to their working patterns to work more flexibly after the pandemic has run its course.
It is time for the UK government and employers to extend the flexible working opportunities afforded to some parents and carers during lockdown to all parents and carers. Proactively creating more secure, good-quality flexible jobs will enable more parents and carers to benefit from flexible working when their formal and informal childcare and schooling arrangements are back in place.
We are calling on the government to act on previous commitments to ensuring employers are advertising jobs flexibly as the norm wherever possible, embedding the positive changes that parents are already experiencing to the way they work during COVID-19. This will help women in particular, who are over-represented in insecure, low paid work and are more likely to have lost their jobs or suffered a fall in earnings since COVID-19 took hold. Better job design could also unlock more secure, reduced hours jobs that can be worked flexibly–highly valued by many parents because they afford them more scope to spend time with their children and to manage work if their childcare arrangements break down.
There has never been a bigger opportunity for a seismic shift in the way we work. There’s no going back to business as usual: it’s time to #flextheUK.