Richard Branson revealed yesterday that certain staff at Virgin Management, the company’s investment and brand licensing arm, will now be entitled to a full year of parental leave on full pay. With the policy applicable to fathers as well as mothers, it goes a lot further than the shared parental leave legislation introduced in April, which allows working parents to split their 52 weeks’ leave. As Branson said when unveiling the generous scheme, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.”
Offering this level of flexibility should ensure that Branson retains his top talent at Virgin and many would argue that other companies should be following his example. However, despite an increasing demand from employees for flexible working arrangements, new research from Timewise, the flexible working specialists, has revealed that just 6.2% of job vacancies in the UK mention flexible working options.
Having analysed data from over 3.5 million job adverts across 122 national job boards from July to December 2014, its study found that only a fraction of jobs were advertised as part-time or, if full-time, offered a reduced hours contract; a different pattern of work such as flexitime or shifts; or the ability to work from home for some or all of the working week. This despite there being 14.1 million people in the UK who are believed to want or need flexible work, equivalent to 46% of the people in employment in the country.
The report goes on to reveal that flexible working opportunities are better outside of London, with Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England the best places to find such positions. Meanwhile, jobs in the health and education sector were found to be the most flexible, whilst the engineering, manufacturing and creative industries ranked lowest for advertising jobs with flexible working options.
Finally, it seems the level of flexibility enjoyed by employees declines as their salary increases. Despite the significant number of flexible roles advertised below £20,000 FTE, the research revealed that candidates looking for flexible work below £30,000 will find around twice the job opportunities as a candidate looking for flexible work above £40,000.
“Technology advances and recent legislation have facilitated a huge growth in flexible working, yet this has not been reflected in hiring practices,” said Karen Mattison, CEO of Timewise.
“Businesses are missing out as they consistently fail to realise just how important flexibility is to people looking for a new role. This often results in the best talent having to trade down and take jobs way beneath their level of skill and ability.”
And it’s hard to argue with Mattison’s parting words: “It’s time we reboot the way we recruit in Britain.”