Three out of ten women in public sector denied flexible working, says union

Unison received more than 8,800 survey responses from women working in the public sector across Scotland.

A union has called for more employers to include flexible working options after a nationwide survey revealed 29% of women employed within public services had requests to work flexibly denied.

Unison received more than 8,800 survey responses from women working in the public sector across Scotland suggesting employers are being “inconsistent, rigid and unimaginative” by denying individuals the flexibility needed.

It was part of a wider survey of 44,065 workers across the UK to mark the beginning of the union’s women’s conference in Brighton, starting on Thursday and running until Saturday.

Some women said their employers told them to use annual leave, resign, or buy their own IT equipment if they wanted to work in a different way.

As a result, the union said, many women had simply resigned for less reliable agency or zero-hour contract jobs.

Almost three in ten (29%) women employed in schools, hospitals, care homes, town halls, police stations and other key services in Scotland have had their requests to work flexibly denied, according to the survey.

One in five (20%) of the women who were told they could not alter the way they worked, reported that their requests had been denied multiple times.

The data shows almost half (48%) of respondents had requested some flexibility in their jobs so they could achieve a better work-life balance while a third (34%) had done so to look after their mental health; 36% to fit around their childcare needs; and 25% for physical health reasons.

The women were given a range of explanations by employers as to why it was not possible for them to work flexibly.

More than two fifths (42%) were told it would affect the quality of the service provided while 28% were told by their employers that there would not be enough colleagues to cover their duties.

One in six (16%) were denied any flexibility because their managers said it would prompt colleagues to ask for similar working patterns.

About one in eight (13%) were given no reason at all.

Unison said that a new flexible working law passed at Westminster will give employees a statutory right to request flexible working from their first day in work.

Currently, employees have a six-month wait for flexible working requests to be granted.

The union said more must be done to allow employees to work flexibly.

Davena Rankin, Unison Scotland women’s committee chairwoman, said: “It’s disheartening to see many employers continuing to deny their staff the opportunity to work flexibly. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

“But, sadly, many women who find they need to inject some flexibility into their working lives are coming up against employers with inconsistent, rigid and unimaginative attitudes.

“While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, some form of flexible working is achievable in most workplaces.

“Helping women to balance work with caring commitments not only improves morale, but can also help employers fill hard-to-recruit jobs. And with fewer vacancies, services provided to the public are likely to improve.

“Too many employers are still turning down flexible working requests, which means the right to request is pretty meaningless for many women.

“The right to work flexibly from day one would be beneficial for staff and employers alike, and help bring workplaces into the 21st century.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code