Flexible working requests decline as homeworking soars

While working from home has surged in recent months, the use of flexible working hours – such as part-time, flexi-time and compressed hours – has fallen over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic, according to new CIPD (Chartered Institute of Professional Development) analysis. 

The CIPD’s analysis of the ONS Labour Force Survey of 74,832 people (October to December 2020) found that homeworking (flexible location) is the only arrangement that has increased since the onset of the pandemic. This is despite many people needing to balance work with other commitments, such as home schooling, childcare or other caring responsibilities, or volunteering. 

Comparing different flexible working arrangements used in April-June 2020 to those used in October-December 2020 shows a downward trend emerging for all flexible hours arrangements:



The use of part-time working has fallen from 28.3% to 27.6% 




The use of flexi-time has fallen from 12.7% to 12.6% 




The use of annualised hours has fallen from 6.4% to 6.2% 




In contrast, homeworking is the only form of flexible working arrangement that has increased during this time, from 7.8% to 10.1%. When comparing the last quarter of 2020 with January-March 2020, homeworking has roughly doubled from 5.3% to 10.1%.  


It means that many workers are missing out on the benefits of using arrangements such as flexi-time (altered start and finish times), part-time hours, annualised hours (a total number of hours for the year, worked over different patterns each week or month) and job shares. It also risks creating divisions or a ‘two-tier’ workforce of those who can work from home and those who need to attend the workplace and have little flexibility in how they work.

In response, the CIPD is urging employers to increase access to a range of flexible working options, to address inequalities in the workforce and give people a greater say over not just where they work but when. The CIPD is also calling for organisations and the government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right through its #FlexFrom1st campaign, rather than after 26 weeks of employment as is the current requirement.

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