Employers risk losing out on valuable talent if they don’t consider flexible working. In fact, as market recovery spurs employee movement, firms could use flexible working as a critical business tool.
British researchers have recently found that “middle-class working mothers are leaving work” because they are unwilling or unable to get to work early and stay out late socialising. The research, which was conducted by psychologists from the University of Leicester’s School of Management, looked specifically at working mothers – but actually this is a wider cultural issue.
But let’s first look at working mums. If they feel they can’t progress or come back to the same job after having children, they will look for work elsewhere. Their employer not only risks losing valuable talent, but also the development and expertise they have invested in that person. It also has a knock-on effect, because other women coming up the ranks will look to women who have returned to work after having children. If they feel their careers will be stunted then they too will seek employment elsewhere.
Employers have much to gain by embracing flexible working arrangements for all workers regardless of parenthood. Hunter Adams conducted its own research and found flexible working resulted in a range of tangible benefits, including increased retention.
By opening the remit of flexible working for all employees, companies can help mitigate some of the workplace tensions generated through selective flexible working. And as of April this year, a new flexible working regime, included in the Children and Families Bill, has come into effect.
Under the changes, the right to request flexible working is extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ service, rather than being limited to carers, to parents of children aged under 17 or, if disabled, under 18.
Employers also no longer need to follow the statutory procedure contained in the Flexible Working Regulations 2002. Instead, they are allowed to use their current HR procedures, but they must consider requests in a reasonable manner.
My own employer, Hunter Adams, was ahead of the curve and has used flexible working arrangements to attract the best talent in the market.
On our leadership team, six of us are working parents, three are part-time and two are single parents. For me personally, having the flexibility to drop my son off at pre-school goes a long way.
Flexible working doesn’t need to be a free-for-all. It can also make good business sense for the employer. Something like a nine-day fortnight, where employees work an extra hour every day to get every other Friday off can decrease overtime, doesn’t cost much to implement and can have a significant impact on employee satisfaction and retention.
In a market as competitive as the north-east, flexible working helps employers create an attractive culture.
Today’s workforce is looking for a work-life balance. They don’t want either to suffer, so that’s why getting the balance right as employer is so critical.