Business leaders are being challenged to address the lack of flexible working for low paid workers and those in frontline jobs in a bid to create a “more equal and ultimately better off society”.
Nikki Slowey, the co-founder and director of Flexibility Works, a social organisation which promotes more flexible working practices, made the plea as figures showed the number of Scots who benefit from this has increased over the past two years.
Research released on the second anniversary of the first Covid lockdown showed that 60% of workers now have some degree of flexibility – compared to 46% prior to the pandemic.
Across Scotland, just 33% of workers said they had had not access to any flexible working in the past six months.
But nearly half (45%) of women earning less than £20,000 a year reported having no access to flexible working in the last six months – compared to 32% of men of in the same earning bracket.
With 42% of the women surveyed earning less than £20,000 a year, compared to 21% of men, the Flex for Life 2022 report said the issue was significant.
Meanwhile, 44% of women in frontline jobs, including those earning more than £20,000 a year, said they had had no access to flexible working in the last six months, compared to 32% of male frontline workers.
Women employed in frontline posts tend to work in areas such as health, education, retail and the social care sector, while men in frontline positions were more likely to work in transport and storage and construction, as well as in health, education and retail.
Ms Slowey said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, and businesses can finally think about flexible working in a more intentional and sustainable way, we need to address the lack of flex in lower paid and frontline roles to create a more equal, and ultimately better, off society.”
Overall, almost three quarters (71%) of women want more flexibility with their employment than they currently have, compared to two thirds (65%) of men.
Ms Slowey said: “Rightly or wrongly, there’s an expectation that women will work more flexibly than men. But our figures show this isn’t always the case.
“While many people have benefited from working from home or shifting their hours around during the pandemic, and it looks like much of this greater flex will stay, not everyone has been included.
“Too many women in lower income roles are still missing out on the benefits of flexible working, such as feeling healthier and less stressed. And their employers are also missing out on a more productive workforce and lower sickness absence.”
Ms Slowey continued: “The vast majority of Scottish workers already work flexibly, or they want to, and flexibility is a key criteria for most job seekers, whether or not they’re in frontline roles.
“We understand flexible working is harder to implement in some roles more than others. But almost every role could have some flex, or new ways of working, that gives more choice and control to workers.
“Whether that’s a little home working, slight amends to start and finish times, or simply greater input to rotas and being able to swap shifts more easily.”