Almost a quarter of workers (22%) have quit roles to find more flexible employment, equivalent to more than 7 million people1 across the UK working population. A further 45% of workers say they would consider changing employer or moving department if a new role was more accommodating to their work/life needs.
The study, from leading health insurer, Aviva, interviewed 1,3002 working adults across the UK in relation to flexible working experiences. While the demand is clear – 72% want greater flexibility at work – there is some reluctance to raise the subject with employers.
Almost half of workers feel awkward discussing personal commitments with their employers. According to the research, 49% of women and 42% of men have felt uncomfortable talking about essential duties such as school pick-ups, carer responsibilities or health appointments. In addition:
- More than a third of workers (35%) wouldn’t be comfortable asking their employer for greater flexibility in their current roles.
- Almost a fifth of employees (18%) say they wouldn’t make a request for flexibility because they know it would be turned down.
- One in 10 people who work at a company which offers flexible working policies say that individual managers aren’t supportive of the schemes.
However, there is evidence that employers are becoming more accommodating towards workers’ needs. Three quarters of workers (75%) said their employer offered some flexible working options, including the ability to increase / decrease hours, remote working or job-shares. In comparison, in Aviva’s 2017 Working Lives report, 64% of employers said they offered flexible working opportunities.
A significant proportion of people questioned – 43% – had asked their employer for greater flexibility at work. Of these, nearly two thirds (62%) of requests were accepted.
Lindsey Rix, MD for savings and retirement at Aviva commenting on the study said “Every employee has a life outside work and their responsibilities will change over time. It’s up to employers to look at how they can adapt to support their employees, or they run a real risk of losing talented individuals from their workforce.
Greater flexibility also means employers can build a more diverse workforce, which in turn means a better understanding of customers and their situations. There are huge benefits all round, for employees, for customers and for employers. For many workers, flexibility is not a ‘nice-to-have’ – it’s a necessity. So if businesses want to recruit and retain the best workers, this is an area they cannot afford to ignore.
Focus on report findings – Carers
- 65% of employees with carer responsibilities have felt uncomfortable discussing their personal commitments with their employers.
- 24% of people with caring responsibilities say they have had a request for flexible working refused.
- Only one in five (18%) employees say their employer offers flexibility for carer duties.
Focus on report findings – Men and women with dependent children
- Dads are more likely to feel awkward discussing personal commitments and more likely to want greater flexibility, than mums.
- 58% of men and 54% of women with dependent children have felt uncomfortable discussing their personal commitments with their employers.
- 86% of men and 77% of women with dependent children would like greater flexibility in their current roles.
- 42% of men with dependent children and 46% of mums with dependent children would stay in their roles for longer if they had greater flexibility.
1. According to employment and labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics. 7 million figure relates to 22% of total UK working population, January 2019:
2. Figures relate to research carried out by Censuswide using a nationally representative sample of 1,326 UK working adults in January 2019.