Whether women need a bit of leeway on their start and finish times or want to work from home more, every employee in the UK has the legal right to request flexible working. According to government advice, the only stipulation is that workers need to have been with the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks to put in an application. It’s there in black and white, so, hey, let’s all go flexi. If only it was that easy. Firstly, you obviously have to be employed full-time before you ask about flexible working. Secondly, companies have every right to turn people down as long as they handle the request in a ‘reasonable manner’.
For those people who are employed in permanent job roles, the prospect of flexible working is highly promising. A survey by the Smarter Working Initiative found that, on average, 65% of employees in the UK are given flexible working options. Some sectors fair much better than others. Top performing sector in the study was technology, with 84% of employees being offered flexible working, followed by media and advertising and then finance. Interestingly, at the bottom end of the scale were charity, manufacturing and professional services.
For many reasons, the concept of flexible working has slowly become part and parcel of business life. Technological advancements, cost-savings in employing remote workers, a digitally-savvy workforce – multiple factors have changed cultures and mind-sets across UK organisations. Above all, flexible working is also part of the framework of employment legislation designed to eradicate discrimination in the workplace. So a big shout out to tech companies, a sector traditionally tainted by gender disparity leads the pack by offering the majority of employees a flexi-option.
Clearly, the benefits of flexible working appeal to both male and female workers, however it does present a great opportunity for women juggling their career with family life. When Timewise released its list of Power Part-Timers category winners, 22 out of the 26 were women. The winners were selected on the basis of seniority and evidence of significant achievement in their part-time role and, while we don’t know the personal circumstances of the top performers, it seems an unlikely coincidence that the vast majority are women.
The right to request flexible working from your boss may be law, however when it comes to new parents the perception is very different to the reality. According to the latest LinkedIn research, more than a third (36 percent) of UK professionals believe their employer does not do enough to support new parents. At the same time, nearly two thirds (60 percent) said their employer was not completely transparent about its parental policies when they joined. The research also stated that one of biggest challenges facing working parents was identified as flexible working arrangements.
At least the options for those people who are already employed are far clearer than women looking to return to work after a break and start a different career. Researching job opportunities that are rewarding and fulfilling, yet still fit around parental responsibilities can be both daunting and time-consuming for any Mum. For those women who are finding it all a bit of a minefield, we have created an event with precisely them in mind. At Women in Business (WIB) Expo 2019, we will showcase the full spectrum of flexible working options - from advice on starting up a business or franchise, to career opportunities with some of the UK’s leading companies.
With the status of being the most flexi-friendly sector, we are delighted to have a number of renowned Technology companies exhibiting and speaking at the event. We have a dedicated Women in Tech village and theatre, supported by industry leaders such as Lenovo, Microsoft and Oracle. Flexible working options can be explored across numerous other industries at WIB Expo, from finance to well-being, telecoms to television!
For women looking for general career guidance, there will be seminar theatres staging sessions on topics such as essential tips for returning to work, how to achieve a good work/life balance, and information on wellbeing and life coaching. WIB Expo is being championed by two of the highest profile female business role models, with Karren Brady and Michelle Mone confirmed as key speakers at the two day event. So we have also added a whole dose of inspiration into the mix.
For a large proportion of women (and men), flexible working is the holy grail. People may have their pens poised ready to exercise their legal rights in their existing jobs or are considering changing career after a change in circumstances. Whatever the reason, the decision might best be left until after WIB Expo in October. With so much (free) advice and guidance on offer, that decision will certainly be easier.