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14th July 2023

Flexible working: sectoral disparities exist

According to new research from the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) Insight Unit, the vast majority (76%) of businesses surveyed say they offer flexible working to their employees.  

The research has been released by the BCC ahead of the Lords’ third reading of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill on Friday 14 July.

While three quarters of firms offer flexible working to their staff members in some form (remote working, flexed hours, job sharing etc.), significant disparities exist between sectors in the extent to which it is offered.

Firms in the business-to- business service sector (e.g. legal, finance, marketing, media) are far more likely to offer flexible working than those in manufacturing and consumer-facing sector (e.g. retail and hospitality).

86% of business-to-business firms offer flexible working in some form, with that figure dropping to 73% for manufacturing businesses and 74% for business-to-consumer firms.

Within the 76% of respondents that offer flexible working, almost a quarter (23%) of firms offer flexible working as standard in all contracts. Looking at different business sizes, this is highest in micro firms with under 10 employees (37%) and lowest among firms with 10-49 employees (13%).

Conversely informal (non-contractual) flexible working is offered by 32% of businesses overall and highest in firms with 10-49 employees (38%).

There is a larger segment of micro firms not offering any form of flexible working (19%) compared with larger firms with more than 250 employees (6%).

Jane Gratton, Head of People Policy at the BCC, said: 

“With three quarters of businesses saying they offer flexible working, it’s clear that it has become part and parcel of everyday workplace practices. Wherever possible, employers are willing to support their employees to balance work and other commitments so they can continue in their jobs and advance in their careers.

“Employers understand that flexible working makes good business sense; helping them to attract and retain a skilled workforce. With three in four firms struggling to fill job vacancies, it can help tackle skills shortages by enabling people to stay in work when their circumstances change.

“Flexible working also means firms can attract candidates from a broader range of backgrounds and circumstances and achieve the benefits of a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace.

“The BCC welcomes changes to legislation, as set out in the Government’s Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, that can help employers and workers have better and earlier conversations around flexible working, balance the needs of the business and individuals, and help more people to contribute their skills to the workforce.

“Good communications, robust guidance and practical resources for employers will be essential as the legislation takes effect to help them understand and implement the changes effectively and understand the broadest range of flexible working options available. We look forward to working with Government and businesses to ensure flexible working works for both firms and employees.”

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