Is the government going down a 'not-so-good street' in its proposals to help parents at work?

Updated: Oct 10, 2018


In early October the Business Secretary Greg Clark announced increased support for workers, business and entrepreneurs. One of the measures focused on flexible working and in particular the government is looking at creating a duty for "employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, and make that clear when advertising". My very simple answer is from Dr Suess - we are potentially going down a 'not-so-good street" and instead we should be getting out of town and heading towards the 'wide open air'. I want to work in a country where employees are committed to normalizing flexibility as part of a companies wider agility strategy, growing the definition of flexibility not predefining it and most importantly understanding that flexibility is not just a benefit for parents and careers but for everyone.

Working flexibly helps people to balance their work and home lives and is vital in creating an inclusive economy where those with caring responsibilities can continue working. It also gives employers access to a wider pool of talent and enables better matching of applicants and jobs.
While many companies are increasingly embracing flexible working and the benefits it brings, some employees face barriers in raising this issue with their employers.
The government will consider creating a duty for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, and make that clear when advertising.

So what do I mean by that? Well,l it's really quite simple;

All jobs can be done flexibly but not all types of flexibility is suitable for every job.

I work an unusual type of flexibility and so do many of those who I know who are making flexibility work as a long term option for them but I'm pretty sure that none of them would see their types of flexibility advertised under the government proposals. The success of PWC's Flexible Talent Network and other such schemes highlights that there is not just one solution for both the employer and the employee to reap the benefits of flexibility. By pre-determining flexibility you are constraining opportunity and focusing on risk - for a large number of service sector jobs you can't always know what flexibility will work until you meet the right individual that can make that flexibility work, and then that becomes the new normal that others follow. So why predetermine the flexibility type from the start?

I think it is great that the duty will force employers to really think about their flexible working policies and arrangements but we must not constrain advertised jobs with preconceived notions of flexibility, for example no one had heard of a job share in the corporate world 10 years ago.

If we look at each and every job and scrutinize it for flexibility we are in effect reducing its possibilities. At the same time by creating a duty from the government we are reinforcing the view that flexibility is an employee benefit rather than a way of enhancing agility for all.

I think all jobs should be considered as available to flexibility - full stop. While there may be some jobs where it may be useful to mention where location flexibility may be limited, such as working in a factory, for the vast majority of jobs time and locational flexibility can be accommodated to some degree if a firm is truly committed to hiring the best talent and growing its diversity of thought.


All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

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