London ‘lags behind’ on flexible working

Capital has failed to build on Olympic legacy, says CIPD, as study shows its commuters spend 47 minutes each day getting to work

The right to request flexible working is enshrined in law, but the impact of the legislation has been minimal in London, new CIPD research has found.

Since 30 June 2014, all employees with 26 weeks’ service have been entitled to request flexible working, but those in the capital are less likely to work flexibly than the rest of the UK, despite having longer commutes. Only 52 per cent of Londoners enjoy any sort of flexible working, 2 per cent below the national average.

The CIPD, which is calling for the next Mayor of London to campaign for increased flexible working in the capital, found that 69 per cent of Londoners who work flexibly are ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their jobs, compared with 52 per cent of those who don’t work flexibly.

And 24 per cent of flexible workers living in London report being under excessive pressure every day or at least once or twice a week, compared to 42 per cent of non-flexible workers. Almost a quarter of those working flexibly are ‘very satisfied’ with their work-life balance, 32 per cent above their counterparts.

Londoners spend an average of 47 minutes travelling to work each way – increasing to 56 minutes for those commuting from outside the M25 – whereas the national average is just 31 minutes.

The survey comes four years after the London Olympics, which it was hoped would act as a catalyst for increasing flexible working, particularly among commuters.

“The London 2012 Olympics was supposed to have heralded a new dawn for flexible working in the capital, but progress appears to have stalled, significantly impacting on the quality of people’s working lives and their productivity,” said David D’Souza, head of CIPD London.

“As new generations enter the labour market with different expectations about how they want to work, and older generations stay in work longer, the rigid working habits too many employers still abide by will have to change. The next Mayor of London should work with employers and bodies like the CIPD to lead a campaign to change attitudes, learn from best practice and expand the types of flexible working available.”

An analysis of 3.5 million job adverts earlier this year suggested that just 6.2 per cent of those offering a full-time equivalent salary of £20,000 or more mentioned a degree of flexibility. London was rated the worst place to find flexible, well-paid work.

Jonathan Swan, research and policy manager at Working Families, said his organisation’s studies had shown that employees have less flexibility than might be anticipated since the changes in legislation. “The main driver of that, apart from roles where you can’t work flexibly, is managerial resistance and organisational culture. There is still a trust problem,” he said.

Swan added that while evidence is building in favour of flexible working, many companies offering a flexible culture would struggle to evidence it with data.

“Lots of people are working more flexibly on very local arrangements made with their managers and never captured by the organisation,” he said. “It makes no sense to restrict flexibility any more. You should just make it as open as you possibly can, whether you encourage that formally or informally. But if you are an HR professional, you need to be able to evidence it in some way to expand it.”

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