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Making flexible working a reality

The 9-5 doesn't work for everyone - and it isn't even necessary


The civil service has openly committed to becoming the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020 and has put flexible working at the centre of its plans to encourage diversity and inclusion in all aspects of public service.

However, after speaking to our members, the FDA has identified significant issues with the way flexible working is promoted and applied across the civil service.

We've teamed up with the Global Institute for Women's Leadership (GIWL) at King's College London to investigate these issues further, and to find solutions to the problems facing those who wish to work flexibly. Our report –Flexible working: myth or reality? – has now been published.

Our research, based on a survey of almost 1,600 civil servants, found that:

- More than 35% of part-time women felt flexible working had negatively impacted their career progression and performance ratings.

- Nearly 50% felt working part-time means their work is more likely to spill over into other areas of their life.

- Almost 20% of survey respondents who felt flexible working was "not encouraged at their grade" were working an additional 10 hours or more a week.

- More than 35% of part-time women feel they had to put in more hours to show their commitment.

Our findings also uncovered stories about individuals given full-time workloads despite part-time hours, or home/flexi workers being penalised for not "being visible enough". Others felt unable to gain access to flexible working in the first place, with one woman thinking an application for this would not be considered because she is "not a parent", and one man saying: "I'm gay and don't have children so feel there is pressure/expectation on me to work full time." 

Read the report.

More needs to be done to make sure that flexible working is a real, viable option for everyone. This is why we're calling on all employers to:

1. Beat the stigma around flexible working.

2. Introduce a flexible working passport, allowing people to take working patterns to new roles.

3. Ensure evaluations for flexible workers, ending full-time work being given to those with part-time hours.

4. Actively support and develop staff who work flexibly, to build a pipeline of leaders who feel able to do the same.


“We know that flexible working not only allows parents to pick up their children from school, but also allows carers to attend hospital appointments and others to proactively manage their mental healthIf we want a country that works for everyone, we need the people working in the civil service to reflect the society it serves: individuals who will bring their own experiences and insight to policy creation, and who will make sure the whole UK public is represented in the decision-making process – not just those who work fixed hours.”
Victoria Jones, FDA Women's Officer 

“Expanding access to flexible work needs to go alongside efforts to reform workplace culture and workload allocation. As long as career success is linked to excessively long working hours then there will be hesitancy among some civil servants to make use of flexible working, and a risk that those who do, primarily women, will be penalised.”
Laura Jones, Research Associate at GIWL

Flex for All

Read Ben's story, and support the Flex for All campaign.

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