Employers ‘decades behind’ flexible working options for women

Organisations are ‘decades behind’ in their attitudes towards flexible working options for women, according to a study from the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Chloe Green | 19th Feb 18

A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that many organisations’ attitudes are ‘decades behind the law’ when it comes to recruiting women, despite the rise in flexible working options.

Conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Commission, the survey was commissioned to understand managers’ attitudes around pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

64% of social enterprises are now led by women, according to the Social Enterprise Census 2017 – and Social Enterprise Scotland has already achieved the 50/50 by 2020 initiative for company boards.

But despite this, attitudes lag behind – the Commission’s 1,106 senior decision makers in organisations found that four in 10 (41%) employers agreed that pregnancy in the workplace puts ‘an unnecessary cost burden’ on the workplace, while six in 10 employers (59%) agree that a woman should have to disclose whether she is pregnant during the recruitment process.

The Commission is calling on employers from all sectors to best practice and joining the Working Forward initiative to improve business practices and make British businesses the best they can be for pregnant women and new parents.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for human resources and people development, said:

“Much more needs to be done to help organisations improve their people management practices, particularly smaller firms, given the most negative attitudes to pregnancy and maternity in the survey are among those with 250 or fewer employees. Investment in manager capability is essential to challenge unlawful, short-sighted and unethical practice.”

The use of digital tools such as cloud-based software can enable flexible working can encourage people, particularly women to juggling professional and family responsibilities, to stay productive from anywhere.

A flexible working survey by PowWowNow found that last year 70% of full time employees said that having the option to do so would make a job more attractive to them. In fact, women are more likely to ask for flexible working over a pay rise.