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Lack of flexibility at work has led to an estimated four million UK employees changing careers

The CIPD is warning that businesses may face a talent exodus if they fail to offer flexible working options, following findings from its latest research which reveal an estimated four million people have changed careers due to a lack of flexibility at work, while an estimated two million have left a job in the last year for the same reason.

The CIPD’s latest report, which explores employee and employer perspectives towards flexible and hybrid working practices, highlights that offering flexible working is key to retaining and attracting staff, addressing the current skills shortage and fostering inclusive workplaces.

Following the pandemic, flexible working has become much more embedded in the world of work. The CIPD’s latest research shows that a growing number of organisations offer flexible working from day one of employment (39 per cent in 2023 vs 36 per cent in 2021) and 14 per cent of those without this in place intend to do so before Government legislation, announced in December 2022, takes effect. However, almost half (49 per cent) of employers still aren’t aware of the pending legislation, which will make flexible working requests a day one right, highlighting the need for more education and action amongst employers.

The research with more than 4,000 senior decision-makers and employees by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, also found:

  • Employees with a disability or long-term health condition are significantly more likely to say they have left a job in the last year (21 per cent) or changed their career/profession (32 per cent) due to a lack of flexible working.
  • Seventy-one per cent of workers view a flexible working pattern as important to them when considering a new role, while 69 per cent say the ability to work remotely is important.
  • Two-fifths (40 per cent) of employers have seen an increase in flexible working requests and a growing number of employers (66 per cent vs 56 per cent in 2021) believe it’s important to offer flexible working as an option when advertising roles.
  • Sixty-five per cent of employers provide some kind of flexibility to their front-line workers. However, there’s significant unmet demand from workers for more flexible hours arrangements, such as flexitime (17 per cent currently use vs 29 per cent would use if offered and possible in their role), term-time working (2 per cent vs 8 per cent), compressed hours (4 per cent vs 18 per cent), job-sharing (1 per cent vs 4 per cent) and annualised hours (3 per cent vs 11 per cent).

Claire McCartney, Senior Resourcing and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD, says flexible working could help employers tackle skills shortagesMany organisations are facing the dual challenges of skills shortages and talent retention issuesparticularly in sectors such as healthcare, education, and hospitality. Our latest research reinforces that offering flexible working can go a long way towards tackling these problems, even in roles that are traditionally seen as non-flexible.  

“There’s a variety of flexible working practices organisations can offer for most roles, including flexitime, compressed hours, hybrid working, job-sharing and term-time working. By outlining flexible working options in job advertisements, employers can also open up recruitment to wider talent pools and create fairer and more inclusive workplaces. This transparency supports workers to ask for flexibility and helps to normalise the conversation for all groups.” 

The CIPD report outlines recommendations for employers to adopt flexible and hybrid working, including:

  • Implement internal policies that allow employees to request flexible working from day one of employment and, wherever possible, stipulate in job adverts that jobs can be done flexibly.
  • Raise awareness of different forms of flexible working and explore how they can be effective in roles that have traditionally been seen as non-flexible.
  • Provide training and support to managers on how to manage flexible and hybrid teams effectively.
  • Develop an action plan to ensure that hybrid working supports inclusion and embed inclusion in every aspect of hybrid working.
  • Consult and collaborate with employees when designing hybrid working practices. 

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