Most vulnerable losing out in jobs recovery
DESPITE the surge in flexible working since Covid-19, new research published today has suggested that those most in need of home-based employment or part-time hours are set to be excluded from any jobs recovery in Scotland.
That is the conclusion from Londonbased Timewise following its analysis of more than 375,000 Scottish job vacancies before and during the pandemic. It found that the ratio of new job vacancies offering flexible working barely shifted since before the pandemic, with three in four making no reference to flexible working options.
“Finding a new job is hard for everyone in the current climate, with increasing unemployment rates coupled with fewer jobs due to the economic downturn,” Timewise chief executive Emma Stewart said. “But people who need flexibility the most – who tend to be women, carers, older workers and those managing health conditions – face an especially stark situation in Scotland.
“You’d think that after a year of Covid and the changes we have all made in how we work, we’d be seeing huge increases in the number of roles specifically mentioning flexibility. But three-quarters of job adverts still don’t mention it at all.”
Timewise is the consultancy and training arm of Women Like Us, a social enterprise set up in 2005 by Ms Stewart and Karen Mattison after they became frustrated by the lack of senior-level part-time job opportunities. Offering advice and training to help women return from career breaks, the organisation now works with policymakers and employers to expand the availability of quality flexible jobs.
During the three months prior to pandemic lockdown restrictions in the UK, 19 per cent of jobs advertised in Scotland offered flexible options, defined by Timewise as anything other than full-time roles based in the workplace. That rose to 25% during the first national lockdown, then settled back to 24% in the last six months of 2020.
This contrasts with the demand for flexible jobs. According to separate research carried out by Scottish social business Flexibility Works in September of last year, seven out of 10 Scots say that already work flexibly, or would like to.
Tracy Black, director of CBI Scotland, said the traditional nine-to-five workday will continue for many. However, changes brought about by lockdown have shown that “firms shouldn’t be scared of offering more flexible working patterns”.
“Firms have done amazing things to keep operations going and deliver for customers – some that will continue well into the future,” Ms Black said. “Increased flexible working and working from home is one example, and it’s clearly here to stay.”
Sandra Redpath of Haddington in East Lothian was among the relatively few to find a suitable flexible role prior to the pandemic when she joined cyber specialist Quorum in 2018 as financial controller. Although able to work flexibly in her previous job, she needed a new role with a pattern better suited to family commitments.
“Part-time roles in particular just don’t seem to come up very often,” she said. “I felt like I only had two options: my career, or staying home with the kids. The options for blending the two were so rare.
“After about six months I was starting to think I’d have to take a significant step down to get the flexibility I wanted and then the Quorum role came up.”
The report from Timewise warns that the dearth of flexible jobs risks further increasing inequalities. Key groups already disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as low-paid workers, women and carers, will find it harder to get back on the jobs ladder or move up.
Ms Stewart added: “With so few vacancies being offered with flexible options, those who need flexible working face being left behind in the race to find new jobs, and employers will miss out on attracting Scottish workers who simply expect to work this way.”