As George Osborne promises stimulus for long-term recovery, Emma Stewart urges employers to use this as an opportunity boost the number of good quality, flexible jobs on offer. It’s quality over quantity.
By Emma Stewart, Co-founder, Timewise Foundation
Part time workers account for a minority of top level jobs 6.6 per cent of chief executives and senior officials, according to the latest TUC survey.
This isn’t exactly new. For years, the term ‘part time’ has translated as ‘low level responsibility’ and ‘not ambitious’, which has shaped the kind of roles that employers offer on a reduced hours / home working basis. It is a concept embedded deep within our working culture and one that is reflected in hiring practices, blocking each successive generation.
A study we conducted with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2012, found that of all vacancies openly advertised in the UK job market both full and part time just 3 per cent were for part time jobs, offering £20,000 a year or more. Meaning the huge pool of talented, skilled and experienced candidates – who need to work flexibly for all kinds of reasons – are funnelled into jobs beneath their level of skill and ability, often ‘crowding’ the lower skilled out of such jobs at all.
And yet, there is a unique opportunity in front of us, to shape a new kind marketplace, better fit to real working practice in 21st century Britain. One where employers can find and hire from this incredible pool of talent – and where the talent, can find the right kind of progressive, agile careers.
Flexible working is a solution to multiple business headaches from how to attract and retain the best workers, from building a path for women into senior and board level jobs, to attracting young graduates who baulk at traditional working patterns and see the world of work through a different lens. It can help build efficiencies in managing office space, and prevent ‘professional burnout’.
We need to normalise part time and flexible working. Already, a quarter of our entire workforce works 30 hours a week or less. As George Osborne promises stimulus for long-term recovery in today’s Budget, employers should be using this as an opportunity to create meaningful growth in the jobs market. Rather than encouraging growth by increasing their hours, let’s focus on boosting the quantity of good quality jobs that are advertised with flexible working possibilities.
To do this we need a visible marketplace for roles that are open to flexibility. Each year Timewise pulls together a ‘Power Part Time List’ comprising of 50 high achieving executives working right at the top of British business – on a part time or flexible basis. Last year’s list included individuals such as Sally Bridgeland, the CEO of BP’s £18bn Pension Trust, who was recruited into her role on a ‘five short days a week’ basi; Patrick Foley, the Chief Economist at Lloyd’s Banking Group, who works the days a week; and Kerry Phillip who is Head of Legal at Vodaphone and manages a team of 30 lawyers. I could go on.
In May, we will launch a fresh search for 50 new case studies for this year’s power list. If you know someone who could be a fit, or if you yourself are a ‘Power Part Timer’ please don’t be afraid to give us a call. Only by blazing a trail, can others follow.Emma Stewart is co-founder of the Timewise Foundation, which houses an online jobs board for part-time and flexible roles