Last reviewed 10 March 2021

To help level-up the UK, boost opportunities for women and reduce geographic inequality as the country recovers from Covid-19, employers should make flexible working a standard option for employees.

This is the view of Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss speaking on International Women’s Day (8 March).

She highlighted new research — published by the Government-backed Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and jobs website Indeed — which shows that offering flexible working explicitly in job advertisements would increase applications by up to 30%.

The analysis of nearly 20 million applications, the largest of its kind ever conducted in the UK, shows greater transparency in job adverts would create at least 174,000 flexible jobs for the UK economy every year.

“The shift for many people to work from home during the pandemic has changed mindsets and now is a chance to seize the opportunity of making flexible working the norm,” Ms Truss said, “rather than something employees have to specially request.”

The Government’s commitment to flexible working is based on its desire to open up employment opportunities to people regardless of their sex or location, she emphasised.

In December 2020, insurance company Zurich worked with BIT to advertise all roles as flexible as part of a trial and found that this led to a 20% jump in the number of women applying for senior roles within the company.

The number of total applications doubled.

Arguing that the move would benefit both employers and employees, Ms Truss said that a national shift to flexible working would boost productivity and particularly help women and those outside major cities.

Comment from BrightHR’s CEO Alan Price

Some employers will likely welcome change towards more permanent flexible working arrangements.

However, others who may struggle to see its benefits, if they have managed to thrive without it, may argue against it. Ultimately, the power is in employers’ hands as the Government has so far not made the standardisation of flexible working a legal requirement.