Last reviewed 4 December 2020

Employers that embrace the flexible working revolution after the Covid-19 pandemic could boost applications from women for top jobs by as much as 20%, a Government-backed study by Zurich insurance suggests.

In 2019, Zurich became the first company in the UK to advertise all vacancies with the option of part time, full time, job share or flexible working.

Coupled with the use of gender-neutral language in every job advertisement, the insurance company said, this generated significant change with a 16% rise in women applying for jobs and a near 20% increase in female applications for management roles.

The findings form part of a wider study commissioned by the Government and carried out by the Behavioural Insights Team, a government-backed think tank.

Zurich joined forces with the unit to identify issues that were blocking career progression for women. The research highlighted a lack of applications from women for senior roles.

Many of these roles have not previously been available on a part-time or flexible basis and female employees reported that this lack of apparent flexibility was making them less likely to apply.

Steve Collinson, Zurich’s Head of HR, said: “Embracing part-time and flexible work is not a silver bullet. But we’ve seen hugely encouraging results, simply by adding six words to our job adverts. By offering roles that fit flexibly around family life, employers could open the floodgates to a much wider pool of untapped talent.”

Workers want a new deal, he continued, and there is a danger that businesses that fail to get on board, will not be able to compete for the best and brightest minds.

For the Government, Minister for Women, Baroness Berridge, said: “We want to see more employers embracing practices such as working from home and returners programmes, which can have a positive impact for both men and women”.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

Employers have likely found that the stigmas around flexible working can be resolved if the proper procedures are put into place, as evidenced by the coronavirus pandemic.

It is always a good sign when employers create more inclusive roles and, if the success that a lot of employers have had is anything to go by, it may well be a tool to boost business recovery from the virus.