Less than a third of job ads offer flexible options

Employers are failing to accept that “the world of work has changed”, with new research revealing that less than three in 10 jobs in Scotland are advertised as flexible.

Although 67 per cent of employees were working flexibly last year, just 27% of adverts during the 11 months to the end of November mentioned alternatives such as working from home, part-time hours or other flexible arrangements. The portion of jobs advertised with such options was two percentage points higher than in 2020, and up from 19% before the onset of Covid.

Based on an analysis of 340,000 adverts across more than 450 job boards, the figures from consultancy Timewise come amid government consultations on whether employees should be able to request flexible working from “day one”. The current legal requirement is that staff must be in post at least 26 weeks before making such a request.

Emma Stewart, co-founder of Timewise, said employers will have to accept new ways of working to successfully hire and maintain staff in what continues to be a very tight labour market. Other separate studies have suggested that up to 70% of Scottish employees want more flexibility in their work than they now have, with many willing to change jobs to get it.

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“We’ve experienced the biggest shake-up to working patterns in living history,” Ms Stewart said. “This is no flash-in-the-pan affair: we’ve been working differently for almost two years.

“We’ve all seen how greater flexibility can benefit people as well as the businesses they work for. Yet recruitment remains completely out of kilter with what’s happening in workplaces. For anyone who wants or needs flexibility, most jobs are still off limits.”

That was the case for Anna Graham from Fife, who spent a year looking through job adverts for a post that would allow her to advance her career.

“I had a good job with the flexibility I needed, but I’d been with my previous employer for 10 years and I was ready for a new challenge,” she said. “When I started looking for a new role with flexible working, there was nothing.

“I spent a good year looking through job adverts. I found anything that mentioned part-time tended to be quite low in salary, and there was nothing part-time in my field of sustainability.”

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She eventually found work with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) in Edinburgh, where she took over as head of environment, science and innovation at the start of this year. The move came after the pandemic led the SWA to update its working options for employees.

“The Scotch Whisky Association now offers the most flexible working arrangements in its 110-year history,” director of strategy Graeme Littlejohn said. “Hardly surprising perhaps, but it is only in the last few years the SWA has switched from fully in-office working to more flexible arrangements for existing and prospective staff.

“We make this offer clear in all our recruitment, and it allows us to cast a wider net for the most talented recruits as no longer do they need to be tethered to easy commuting distance to an office.”

Ms Stewart added: “The benefits of being able to attract key talent from a much wider pool, reduce the gender pay gap as well as reducing sickness absence and improving productivity will be well worth the effort.”

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