Latest from our Flexible Work Commission: drivers for flexibility vary by sector
The REC's Flexible Work Commission has been working since January to look at the UK's labour market and find out why companies are choosing to flex their workforces, either by using temporary, contract or freelance staff, or by creating flexibility for their own permanent employees.
We've met with a range of employers from large multinationals to niche SMEs to find out what they think, and learn why more and more businesses are adopting flexible approaches. A number of companies have given evidence at our London-based meetings, and we've gone into the regions to speak directly to employers in sectors as diverse as engineering, accounting, nuclear, media and creative, architecture and manufacturing.
While flexibility is happening in many ways, we've found the drivers for it can be very different depending on the company sector. A recent meeting with the nuclear sector showed that they have been working flexibly for many years, driven primarily by client demand. Carrying out essential maintenance or repairs to a nuclear facility often cannot be done on a 9 to 5 basis, so compressed or annualised hours are very common, especially when working on the client's site.
The nuclear industry, along with the related sectors of engineering and technical, also relies on flexible staff to access skills that are often in short supply, particularly when those skills are only required for short periods of time. This lends itself to the use of contractors and freelancers. These highly skilled individuals can move confidently around the labour market, whilst the companies can engage them for very specific, and often very brief tasks during the course of a project without the complexity of an employment relationship.
One trend we have seen in the higher end of the jobs market is that the demand for flexibility seems also to come from workers, whether via contracting or through changes to existing employment relationships. Accounting, professional services and communications firms have all told us that flexible work conditions are essential for attracting and retaining the best talent, particularly from the younger generation, many of whom have different career expectations than their parents and grandparents.
This has led employers to look for ways to get the best out of these staff whilst offering them the flexibility they want, whether that is via remote working, four-day weeks, or flexible time off to pursue hobbies and interests outside of work.
These are just a few of the trends we've seen emerging -- much more is still to come. The Flexible Work Commission will continue to meet over the summer and publish its findings and recommendations in the autumn.
To learn more about the Flexible Work Commission, or to share your views on flexible work, contact the REC on 020 7009 2100 or email@example.com