Flexible employment is at the heart of job creation in the UK, according to an employment trends survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Accenture.
For the first time since the recession more than half (51%) of companies expect to hire more staff in the next year. Almost all firms (97%) see flexible employment patterns such as zero hours contracts and the use of agency workers as either vital or important to the economy.
Respondents, who employ more than a million people between them, said such tools enable companies to cope with fluctuating demand (87%), respond rapidly to growth opportunities (81%) and provide a stepping stone into work for people vulnerable to long-term employment (58%). In addition, 68% said flexibility offers choice to people who do not want full-time work.
The survey, On the up, found that 87% allow remote, mobile or home working for at least some staff and 86% of businesses had at least some staff on non-standard hours as a result of seasonal working, compressed hours, job sharing or flexi-time. In addition, 85% of businesses use multi-skilling to boost employee productivity.
However, the main obstacle to flexible working practices is ensuring the corporate infrastructure is appropriate to meet the challenge of changed working arrangements – 62% said this is an issue. Changing the mindset of managers to manage new approaches is also a problem, reported by 58%, and 41% said the mindset of employees was also a barrier.
Inflexible working practices were also named as a threat to UK labour market competitiveness by 32% of companies, behind the burden of regulation, low skill levels, EU regulation and uncompetitive labour costs.
The report said: “Modern employment relationships in the UK are characterised by flexibility and choice in a variety of forms. This benefits businesses and employees alike – and it’s an essential ingredient in helping the UK to attract international investment and talent.”
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