Government ‘must collect data on flexible working’

3880471209_258b86efc5_oLack of data on flexible working is stopping government and businesses from measuring the effectiveness of such arrangements a select committee has said.

The Business, Information and Skills committee said the dearth of data on the current number of flexible workers is unacceptable. It called on the Government Equalities Office to oversee the collation of data on flexible working, including number for part-time roles, job sharing and compressed hours.

The committee’s report also pointed to the need to collect this data within government. “What little available information there is reveals a wide divergence in flexible and part-time working opportunities between departments,” it said. For example, 3.1% of staff in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 7.1% of Treasury staff, 11% of staff in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and 39% of staff in the Department for Work and Pension work part time or in a job share.

A voluntary code of practice was also proposed in the report, with the committee suggesting government highlight organisations which are using flexible working extensively and effectively.

In addition, the MPs said flexible working should be available to employees from the moment they start in a job, rather than only after 6 months. “Staff should be entitled to ask for flexible working from the outset, unless there are justifiable reasons to the contrary. This should be led from the top management level.”

Chair of the committee Adrian Bailey MP said: “Flexible working is not a women’s issue; it affects all employees with caring responsibilities.  We must dispel the myth that it is problematic and cannot work.”

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were also considered, with the committee calling on the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to take a more active role in supporting and advising them on flexible working. “Many SMEs are exemplars of flexible working, which benefits both the business and the staff, but others lack the knowledge to utilise flexible working successfully,” it said.

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