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Thursday 26 September 2019

Flexible working in the civil service can damage career progression, research reveals

New research from the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London has found that there are large barriers to flexible working in the civil service. 

The research, commissioned by the FDA, found that more than 35% of part-time women felt that flexible working had had a negative impact on their career progression and performance ratings, with over 35% of part-time women also feeling they had to put in more hours to show their commitment. 

Nearly 50% of respondents felt that working part-time means their work is more likely to spill over into other areas of their life, while almost 20% of respondents who felt that flexible working was not encouraged at their grade were working an additional 10 or more hours a week. 

The research was based on a survey of 1,600 civil servants and is available to view here

Research Associate at the Global Institute for Women's Leadership, Laura Jones, said: 

“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.” 

In order to tackle these barriers and make flexible working work for everyone, the FDA is calling on all employers to: 

• Beat the stigma around flexible working.
• Introduce a flexible working passport, allowing people to take working patterns to new roles.
• Ensure evaluations for flexible workers – no more full-time work in part-time hours.
• Actively support and develop staff who work flexibly, to build a pipeline of leaders who feel able to do the same. 

FDA Women’s Officer Victoria Jones said: 

“While we support the civil service’s ambition to become the most inclusive employer by 2020, the workplace culture within the civil service doesn’t always support staff working flexibly. Flexible working, for all staff, is the cornerstone of building a diverse workplace, where everyone is able to contribute without sacrificing their personal lives. 

“Aside from the worrying data, there were two main underlying themes of the research. Firstly, a workplace can’t truly embrace flexible working if the culture isn’t there to support it. Our members don’t need to be chained to a desk to draft briefings but there’s still a misconception that if they’re not visible in the office, they can’t possibly be delivering. 

“Secondly, if workloads aren’t adjusted then flexible working is destined to fail. Many of our members told us they were working part-time, but picking up the remaining hours of a full-time role on their non-working days. 

“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 health. If 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.”

Notes for editors
1. The FDA is the union for senior managers and professionals in public service, representing more than 18,000 members at grades HEO and above. Membership includes senior civil servants, government policy advisors, prosecutors, diplomats, tax professionals, economists, solicitors and other professionals working across the Government and the NHS. 
2. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union". 
3. The research was based on 1,599 responses to a survey of the FDA’s 18,000 members working across the public sector. While this was a self-selecting sample, subsequent comparison with ONS statistics found that the sample is broadly representative of the wider civil service with respect to gender, the gender composition of each grade, and full-time/part-time status. However, it under-represents part-timers in senior-grade roles, and in line with FDA membership, is weighted towards those in senior-grade roles and Grades 6 and 7 compared to the wider civil service. 
4. The FDA can be found on Twitter @FDA_union. General Secretary Dave Penman tweets as @FDAGenSec
5. For more information about the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, visit giwl.kcl.ac.uk.
6. For more information, contact:
Communications Officer Tommy Newell
07738 729 145

Communications Officer Laura Gilbert
07984 990 601
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