New research finds a post-COVID ‘flexible job surge’ could boost workplace equality

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  • The analysis of nearly 20 million job applications is thought to be the largest of its kind conducted in the UK

    A new first-of-its-kind survey conducted by the world’s largest job site, Indeed, and the Government-backed Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), has found that employers could create as many as 174,000 new flexible jobs in the next year.

    Women would likely benefit the most, according to the landmark research, as the survey found that women valued transparency around flexible working arrangements more highly than men.

    The report concludes that if flexible workplace ‘nudges’ were adopted on Indeed alone, it would add at least 174,000 flexible jobs to the UK economy in a year.

    We all know that the pandemic has impacted women’s careers hardest. We’ve reported on the she-cession – that is, how the female unemployment rate in November stood at 17% for women, compared to 13% for men – and how women’s careers have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

    Women are more likely than men to have been made redundant during the pandemic. Plus, the survey found industries with the heaviest declines in openings in the last year had more female than male employees. Think food preparation and service (-83% since 1 February 2020), beauty and wellness (-82%), and hospitality and tourism (-77%).

    Experts at Indeed concluded from the research that, while a new wave of flexible roles would benefit both men and women, women would benefit the most.

    On the findings, the Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss said: “Making flexible working the norm, rather than something employees have to specially request, will help open up opportunities to people regardless of their sex or location.”

    “The fact is that for many jobs there has been a closed shop, requiring people to live in high-cost accommodation close to the centre of cities or maintain working arrangements that are very hard to combine with family or other responsibilities.”

    “We now have the chance to break down that door and boost opportunities for everyone.”

    The research analysed nearly 20 million job applications in total. It’s thought to be the largest of its kind conducted in the UK, and highlights the ongoing need for companies to introduce more flexible working opportunities.

    Pre-pandemic, women were twice as likely to work flexibly, the site reports.

    Female employment rate does remain high, at 72%, however, it’s still not as high as the male employment rate, which sits at 78.4%.

    Deepa Somasundari, senior director of strategic projects at Indeed, says of the findings: “We know people value flexible work opportunities and as a result of the pandemic, there is increasing expectation that jobs are designed with this in mind.”

    “For employers, this means reconsidering the notion that flexible work is a benefit and instead acknowledging it as a better way of working that could positively impact the lives of women and therefore society as a whole.”

    Minister for Women, Baroness Berridge, agrees, adding: “We continue to see the benefits of flexible working, now more than ever. These findings add to existing evidence showing how both men and women stand to benefit from working from home and returners programmes.”

    “Our work with Indeed has proven how much benefit there is for employers in advertising flexible roles and how doing so will help to normalise flexible working. Everyone can benefit from flexible working, but the research shows that for women it can be especially important. Flexible working can be a vital tool at the disposal of employers, helping to achieve workplace equality.”

    It’s worth noting what a one-off trial this was. Indeed share that a study of its size and on this subject matter has never been done in the UK before.

    David Halpern, CEO of The Behavioural Insights Team, said: “This is an amazing trial, and a great credit to our partners in the Government Equalities Office and Indeed, the global job site.”

    “It’s a huge result in several ways. We think it may be the biggest experimental social policy trial ever published – certainly in Britain, and perhaps in the world.”

    “It also had big effects. It boosted the number of jobs advertised as flexible by around 17%, and in turn, boosted the number of applicants by at least 20%. It’s also a particularly important result in the context of COVID, and a changed world of work.”

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