Debate continues to rage on how to promote and maintain women in leadership roles. But what about the everyday woman?
Women like Jane.
When we met Jane last year she was completely trapped in a low-paid job. Why? Certainly not due to a lack of skills, but because she was working part time. As a receptionist for a small business. Bringing home just £10K per year.
As a single mother with three children, Jane was juggling and struggling to make ends meet.
She needed to earn more. And she was capable of earning more, having worked in a management role before starting a family. However, all the better paid roles that Jane saw advertised were full time, and what she really needed was a job with flexible or part time hours. She needed to be there for her children at least part of the week, and didn’t want to lose extra money on exorbitant childcare costs.
Jane was trapped in a jobs market, where she was not able to take her flexibility with her into a better paid job. And what’s more, she had come to believe that the amount she was paid, was the amount she was worth. So the easiest thing was to stay put. Trapped in low-pay.
And therein lies the problem.
When it comes to discussions about gender parity in the workplace, women do not choose to be underpaid. They compromise on pay for time.
This is not just a problem for women like Jane, but for men and women who need to work flexibly for lots of different reasons - be it to manage caring or parenting responsibilities, manage their health or as they work towards their retirement.
It’s a problem for their families, many struggling to raise their living standards; for Government who is subsidising their low earnings with tax credits; as well as employers who are missing out on the skills of people trapped in part time jobs they are overqualified for.
So why is this? Because there is a fundamental issue with how jobs are designed in the UK, and how modern-employers recruit and retain talent.
With the publication of our new research today – which has been funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – we now know the true scale of this challenge
There are almost two million British workers – including parents, people with disabilities and older workers - who are either trapped in low-paid part time work or workless, NOT due to a lack of skills or experience, but by the lack of quality part time and flexible jobs – with salaries of £20,000 FTE or more - to apply for.
And, with the findings from our research also revealing there are 7.4 workless people who are seeking every quality flexible vacancy, compared to one workless person for every quality full time job, it’s not hard to see why so many people get stuck. In more ways than one.
Because, here’s the thing…most decently paid jobs do not start part time.
Those that do, are generally clustered in customer service roles where to progress often means to go full time.
And how do we know this? Our Flexible Jobs Index published last summer, highlighted that only 6.2 per cent of jobs within the UK mention flexible working options in the job ad.
Now imagine a different jobs market where employers - when they recruit for either new roles or internal promotions - looked not just at how, but when and where the job can be done.
Imagine if that employer then stated on their job ad that the role was open to flexibility for the right candidate.
This is flexible hiring.
So what difference would this make for Jane?
We did find an employer open to flexibility with a job that Jane wanted to apply for. The employer hadn’t thought to say so. With some coaching we persuaded Jane to apply. She got the job.
She now works three days per week, and is almost £8,000 better off a year. Her employer is happy. They have a skilled person not costing them a five-day week salary.
And Jane is happy as she uses her skills and now earns her worth.
Now we know that taking action on flexible hiring is just one factor in a conversation about how to tackle low pay and raise the living standards of millions of families across the UK.
But it was a critical factor for Jane. And for the 1.9 million more like her across Britain.
The research ‘Flexible hiring: improving business performance and raising living standards’ is published today by Timewise and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.