CIPD Chief Executive, Peter Cheese

#FlexFrom1st - The @CIPD urges employers to take more action to ensure people who can’t work from home can benefit from other #flexible working options 

While working from home has surged in recent months, the use of flexible working hours - such as part-time, flexi-time and compressed hours - has fallen over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic, according to new CIPD analysis.

The CIPD's analysis of the ONS Labour Force Survey of 74,832 people (October to December 2020) found that homeworking (flexible location) is the only arrangement that has increased since the onset of the pandemic.

This is despite many people needing to balance work with other commitments, such as homeschooling, childcare or other caring responsibilities, or volunteering.

Comparing different flexible working arrangements used in April-June 2020 to those used in October-December 2020 shows a downward trend emerging for all flexible hours arrangements:

  • The use of part-time working has fallen from 28.3% to 27.6%
  • The use of flexi-time has fallen from 12.7% to 12.6%
  • The use of annualised hours has fallen from 6.4% to 6.2%
  • In contrast, homeworking is the only form of flexible working arrangement that has increased during this time, from 7.8% to 10.1%. When comparing the last quarter of 2020 with January-March 2020, homeworking has roughly doubled from 5.3% to 10.1%.

It means that many workers are missing out on the benefits of using arrangements such as flexi-time (altered start and finish times), part-time hours, annualised hours (a total number of hours for the year, worked over different patterns each week or month) and job shares. It also risks creating divisions or a ‘two-tier’ workforce of those who can work from home and those who need to attend the workplace and have little flexibility in how they work.

In response, the CIPD is urging employers to increase access to a range of flexible working options, to address inequalities in the workforce and give people a greater say over not just where they work but when.

The CIPD is also calling for organisations and the government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right through its #FlexFrom1st campaign, rather than after 26 weeks of employment as is the current requirement.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:

“There’s been a huge shift to homeworking since the Coronavirus pandemic and this has proved to be positive for a lot of people, with many organisations now looking at how to provide more choice in where people work as we come out of the lockdowns. But our analysis shows a concerning downward trend emerging for all other forms of flexible working. If the use of other flexible working arrangements continues to fall this will drive many questions about fairness and equality in the workplace for those whose jobs require them to be in a place of work.

“Homeworking must not be the only flexible working arrangement available, and employers should take action to offer and encourage the uptake of a broad range of options that give opportunities for everyone to have more choice and flexibility in how they work. More flexible working in all its forms helps to attract and retain people with a broad diversity of needs and expectations about how they work, thereby fostering more diverse and inclusive workplaces. It can also be good for wellbeing and productivity.

“We have all learned a lot over the last year and we should take these learnings forward to put people first and move to flexible working becoming the norm, not an exception. That’s why the CIPD is calling for the right to request flexible working from day, so everyone can benefit from having more choice and a say in when and how they work.”

The official data also highlights unmet demand around flexible working arrangements, with 9.3% of workers – equivalent to around 3 million people – saying they would prefer to work shorter hours and accept the pay cut that comes with this. This suggests that, for many, the traditional 9-5 working day is too rigid and arrangements such as flexi-time, compressed hours and part-time hours could better match people’s preferences.


 

Home working set to more than double compared to pre-pandemic levels once crisis is over 

16th July 2020: CIPD Survey finds employers expect pandemic to lead to a long-term shift in how people work, highlighting need for right to request flexible working to become a day one right.

As the Government urges people to consider returning to the workplace, July 2020 research from the CIPD showed employers expect that the proportion of people working from home on a regular basis once the crisis is over will increase to 37% compared to 18% before the pandemic.

Employers also expect the proportion of staff who work from home all the time to rise to 22% post pandemic compared to 9% before lockdown measures started to be imposed.

The survey of 1,046 employers also shows that, overall, employers believe people working from home are as productive as other workers, with 28% of employers believing the increase in homeworking has increased productivity or efficiency, compared to 28% of organisations that report the opposite effect and 37% that don’t believe there has been any effect on productivity or efficiency.

Organisations reported that during the lockdown the average proportion of the workforce working from home continuously was 54%.

To support the shift to more regular homeworking and other forms of flexible working, the CIPD believes the right to request flexible working should become a day-one right for all employees, rather than after 26-weeks as currently required. The Government has pledged to consult on whether to make flexible working the default position unless employers have a good reason not to.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, said:

“The pandemic is going to have a long-lasting effect on how we work, with a step change in the proportion of people who work from home on a much more regular basis. This will disrupt some existing patterns of economic activity, for example spending by office workers in town and city centres is likely to drop substantially over the long-term and we will see a further shift to online retail.

“However, the advantages will be considerable for employers and workers. Organisations will be able to hire people from a much wider geographic area and reduced time and money spent on commuting will take pressure off our transport infrastructure and boost spending in local communities.

“Greater use of home working will make work more accessible and sustainable for all, particularly for people with caring responsibilities and those with mobility or health concerns. This shift will support and encourage employers to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce which is good for the economy and society at large. For many people more flexible working opportunities and choice over when and where they work can give a better work-life balance and support for overall mental and physical wellbeing.

“However, many employers need to improve how they manage and support people who work from home more regularly and crucially also need to increase the range and uptake of other forms of flexible working so those people who are not able to work from home can work flexibly wherever possible in different ways. To support this wider shift to more flexible workplaces we would like to see the right to request flexible working become a day one right.”

The CIPD’s survey found that many employers are already getting ready for a more flexible future:

  • 44% of employers said that they are putting in place additional measures or spend to support home working. Of these, 66% plan to change their policies to enable more home working and 46% plan more line management training in managing and supporting home workers
  • 33% of employers plan to introduce new forms of flexible working or try and increase the uptake of existing flexible working arrangements, including working from home on a regular basis (70%), always working from home (45%), part-time hours (40%), flexi-time (39%), term-time working (16%) and compressed

Employers call for furlough scheme to be more flexible and extended to September - New CIPD survey of 1,000 employers highlights need for furloughed workers to be able to work part-time 

29th Apr 2020: Employers want to see the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) made more flexible to allow furloughed staff to work reduced hours and for the scheme to be extended to at least the end of September. 

This is according to a new survey (Apr 29) of more than 1,000 employers commissioned by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. The CIPD is warning that without these changes, the current JRS could prove to be a waiting room for unemployment and fail to protect significant numbers of the jobs it set out to save. 

The CIPD’s survey shows that almost half (46%) of employers have already furloughed staff, while another 10% plan to do so. However more than three quarters of employers that have already furloughed staff (76%) or plan to furlough staff (78%) said that making the scheme more flexible to enable furloughed staff to work reduced hours would be useful. 

Seven in ten employers (70%) that have already used or are considering using the furlough scheme, said that up to half of furloughed staff could potentially work reduced hours, while 16% of these organisations reported that more than 50% of furloughed staff could work reduced hours. The CIPD says that changes to the scheme to allow short-time working would enable hundreds of thousands of furloughed staff to work in some capacity, helping to protect jobs, support businesses and reduce the burden on public finances, as many employers would require a lower wage subsidy from the Government. 

In addition to greater flexibility, employers would also like the JRS extended by three months, to the end of September, with 60% identifying this as the most important labour market policy change that would help them deal with the impact of COVID-19. This is crucial given that the CIPD’s survey suggests that the JRS has played a vital role in protecting jobs to-date, with just 7% of employers having already made redundancies in response to Covid-19 to-date, with a further 12% planning to. 

CIPD Chief Executive, Peter Cheese, commented:  

“The Government has worked hard to get the job retention scheme up and running so quickly. However, urgent decisions must now be taken to make it more flexible and to extend it so employers can continue to protect jobs.  

“Letting furloughed staff work some hours, where possible, will enable organisations to bring back workers from furlough gradually while rebuilding their business. This will be vital as lockdown measures are eased over a number of weeks or months, and will reduce the risk of large-scale redundancies in this next phase of the crisis.  

“The Government must also consider extending the scheme to at least the end of September. This will provide more certainty for employers and ensure that there is no ‘cliff edge’ exit from furlough straight to redundancy for hundreds of thousands of workers at the end of June.

“The Government has shown its prepared to adapt and improve its rescue packages for businesses and workers as this crisis develops. It needs to do so again here. Equally, businesses must play their part. We need to see employers weigh up the ethical, legal and financial considerations of using the scheme, to act openly and responsibly to ensure that a more flexible system is not abused, and that public money goes to the businesses that need it the most.”  

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