Increased flexible working could unlock £457m for construction

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A study commissioned by Sir Robert McAlpine claims a 50% increase in flexible working could result in a net economic gain of £55bn for the entire economy, whilst creating 51,200 new jobs. What’s more, the construction industry stands to gain £457m if flexible working increases by 50%.

The study by Pragmatix Advisory is one of the first to quantify the economic benefits of flexible working and, as well as the Tier 1 contractor, was also commissioned by flexible working campaign group Mother Pukka.

The study, Flexonomics: The economic and fiscal benefits of flexible working, says that the practice already contributes £37bn to the UK economy each year, with flexible working linked to enhanced productivity and employee morale, alongside a reduction in employee absences.

It also found that refusals to accommodate flexible working requests are costing business almost £2bn a year and the construction industry currently loses £116m in flexible working refusals.

The report highlights the key distinction between forced home working and flexible working, which it defines as any way of working that suits an employee’s needs. In recognising that flexible working is more than home working, the report highlights how even the traditionally ‘hard-to-flex sectors’ can embrace flexibility. Construction workers, for example, can take advantage of self-rostering whilst those working in healthcare can swap mutually agreed predictable hours.

“With an expanded understanding of flexible working, the regional workforce has better access to a range of jobs across the country, in line with the government’s Levelling Up scheme,“ it says.

Ahead of the publication of the government’s consultation into flexible working, the report also made a number of recommendations for delivering greater flexibility:

Ensure clarity on options in adverts: Though the government is consulting on proposals for a “day one right to request flexibility”, this still requires new recruits to either know if such options are available and to have the confidence to ask. If all people who could apply are informed in advance, it widens the pool of potential employees for the business that is advertising.

“We have been supporting Flex Appeal because we believe that everyone has the right to a healthier work life balance and flexible working could help us alleviate the mental health crisis in construction.”

Paul Hamer, Sir Robert McAlpine

Increase data collection: As it stands, limited data is collected on flexible working. Increasing the data collected by the Office for National Statistics would help build a stronger evidence base and understanding of the benefits of all forms flexible working.

Government to lead by example: The government should consider going further in communicating to businesses the benefits of flexible working, potentially adopting the working arrangement as the default for the civil service and government departments or publishing a list of flexible working employers

Paul Hamer, Chief Executive of Sir Robert McAlpine, said: “We have been supporting Flex Appeal because we believe that everyone has the right to a healthier work life balance and flexible working could help us alleviate the mental health crisis in construction.

“The misconception that flexible working is only applicable to a select few sectors needs to change. Flexible working can refer to working patterns, workload or time spent in the workplace, and this report, one of the first of its kind, demonstrates the glaring benefit to the UK economy if adopted more widely.

“We hope it supports the government in encouraging all manner of sectors to engage with the possibilities of flexible working.”

Anna Whitehouse, founder of Mother Pukka and Flex Appeal, added: “Flexible working has never been about location, it’s always been about inclusion. It’s about including talent. Talent with caring responsibilities, talent living with disabilities. People who are looking to work in a human – or even humane – way that’s ultimately good for business.

“There’s a direct link between flexibility and profitability. If we want to ‘Build Back Better’, now is the time for businesses to use flexible working as the foundation.”

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