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31 Jul 2023

Chamber says flexible working can help businesses as new research shows three-quarters of firms offer it to staff

Flexible working policies can help businesses to attract and retain employees, says East Midlands Chamber’s HR lead, as new research shined a spotlight on its prevalence.

Lucy Robinson, director of resources at the chamber of commerce for Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, urged employers to consider how they can implement flexible working – including remote working, flexed hours and job sharing – in some form amid acute people and skills shortages.

New analysis published by the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) insight unit showed 76% of UK businesses provide flexible working to their staff, although significant disparities exist between sectors in the extent to which it is offered.

Lucy said: “With three-quarters of businesses saying they offer flexible working to their employees, it is clear this has now become part and parcel of everyday workplace practices since we came out of the pandemic.

“Wherever possible, many employers are willing to support their people to balance work and other commitments – and the reason for this, it would appear, is because they understand it makes good business sense by helping them to attract and retain a skilled workforce.

Lucy Robinson

“With East Midlands Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey showing that seven in 10 firms attempting to recruit are struggling to fill vacancies, a flexible working policy can help to tackle labour shortages by enabling people to stay in work when their circumstances change.

“This also helps businesses to create an inclusive workplace environment as they can attract candidates from a broader range of backgrounds – which employers tell us provides real business benefits such as improved decision-making via diversity of thought, enhanced staff recruitment and retention levels, and allowing them to better represent customers and clients.

“While not every sector can provide the same level of flexibility, there are steps employers in typically on-premise industries such as manufacturing and construction can take such as offering staggered hours, shift swaps, job sharing, compressed working weeks and offering greater flexibility with time off.”

The BCC’s research, which was released ahead of the House of Lords’ third reading of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill on Friday (14 July), illustrated these sectoral differences in flexible working provision.

Eight-six percent of business-to-business services sector employers – including legal, finance, marketing and media – offer flexible working in some form, compared to 74% of business-to-consumer firms and 73% of manufacturers.

Within the 76% of organisations that offer flexible working, 23% of those provide it as standard in all contracts. This is highest in microbusinesses with under 10 employees (37%) and lowest among small businesses with 10 to 49 employees (13%).

There is a larger segment of microbusinesses not offering any form of flexible working (19%) compared with larger firms with more than 250 employees (6%).