Women earning less than £20k least likely to have access to flexible working

Women earning less than £20,000 in Scotland are the least likely to have access to flexible working, new research suggests.

Nikki Slowey, co-founder and director of Flexibility Works.
Nikki Slowey, co-founder and director of Flexibility Works.

The proportion of Scottish workers who can work flexibly has risen overall as a result of the pandemic, with 60 per cent of them saying they are now working flexibly compared with 46 per cent pre-pandemic, according to the research by Flexibility Works.

However, the study shows that some groups are missing out.

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Nearly half (45 per cent) of women earning less than £20,000 say they’ve had no access to any flexible working in the last six months. This compares with 32 per cent of men who earn less than £20,000.

The Scottish national average is 33 per cent, meaning that a third of Scottish workers have had no access to any flexible working in the last six months.

Flexibility Works said the issue was all the more significant because there are more women in the lowest salary bracket than men.

Some 42 per cent of women in the research sample group of more than 1,000 Scottish workers earned less than £20,000, compared with just 21 per cent of men. This is in part because the burden of childcare still falls more on mothers, who then look for quality part-time work, the report noted.

A total of 44 per cent of women working in all frontline roles, including those earning more than £20,000, say they had no access to flexible working in the last six months, compared with 32 per cent of men working in frontline roles.

Women working in frontline roles mainly worked in health, education, retail and social care, while men in frontline roles tended to work in retail, transport and storage, health, construction, and education.

The figures are from a report called Flex for Life 2022, published today on the anniversary of the first coronavirus lockdown, by Flexibility Works, a social business that supports organisations to become more flexible workplaces.

Co-founder and director Nikki 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.

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“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.

“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.

“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.”

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