May 15, 2023
Flexible working and its benefits are enjoyed most by highest paid workers
Low paid workers have the least flexible working, and the gap between the number of flexible workers on the lowest and highest salaries has increased in the last year, according to figures from the Flex for Life 2023 report from advocacy group Flexibility Works. Just half (51 percent) of workers surveyed for the report earning less than £20,000 a year work flexibly, compared with eight in ten (80 percent) workers earning more than £50,000. The figures are from an analysis of flexible working in Scotland, which is supported by the Scottish Government and The Hunter Foundation.
The report suggests that a year ago 50 percent of workers earning less than £20,000 worked flexibly as did 73 percent of workers earning more than £50,000, a smaller difference of 23 percentage points. The new figures also show a consistent gap between the number of flexible workers on the lowest (>£20k) and highest (£50k+) salaries across frontline and non-frontline roles. Frontline jobs are often done face-to-face or at a specific location, such as roles in hospitality, retail, health and social care, manufacturing and education. Non-frontline roles are often office-based.
Flexibility Works director and co-founder, Nikki Slowey, said: “We’re concerned that while the pandemic has increased flexible working in Scotland overall, the benefits are skewed towards workers on higher incomes where good flexible working keeps getting better, while little changes for workers on the lowest incomes. Initially we thought this was because more low paid workers are in frontline roles, such as in the care, manufacturing, and hospitality sectors, where employers need to be more open-minded and creative to create flexibility. But our figures show this isn’t the case. Frontline or not, the higher earners always have significantly more flexibility than lower earners.
“Lack of trust is likely to be part of the problem because we know some employers still expect workers to ‘earn the right’ to work flexibly. But the full reasons are something we need to explore further. In the meantime, we’re encouraging all employers to explore greater flexible working. It’s well documented flexibility improves employee mental health and wellbeing and boosts productivity, recruitment and retention for employers. It makes good business sense for employers to explore what flexibility they could offer to all workers but especially those in the lowest paid roles.
“We know lots of people really need flexible working in order to work at all, so creating greater flexibility across the salary spectrum would help people get work at the level they’re skilled for, stay in work and progress at work. This is good for them and their families. But making jobs accessible to more people is also good for employers, especially those tackling skills shortages, and the wider Scottish economy too.”