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UK – REC calls for flexible working, a positive legacy of the recession

21 September 2012

More flexible working arrangements can help businesses reduce absenteeism, improve staff morale and productivity while also improving their ability to attract and retain top talent, a new report from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has found.

“Whilst unemployment in this country stands at over 2.5 million, it is still significantly below levels experienced during previous recessions,” said David Frost CBE, former Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce and chair of the REC’s Flexible Work Commission.

 “A key reason for this is that business has adopted a range of flexible working practices that have enabled them not only to sustain their companies but also, and importantly, to hold onto their employees. This flexibility was not seen in previous downturns.”

The research looked at the competitive advantage businesses may gain when adopting less traditional structures for their workforce, including the use of compressed hours, home workers as well as temporary and part-time contracts.

The report says that recruitment agencies should advise employers on job design and flexible work options.

Staffing firms should therefore challenge assumptions about flexibility, help their clients improve job descriptions and advertisements to reflect flexible options available and devise creative solutions in line with business need.

Businesses are advised to engage workers in designing flexible roles and reinforce that flexibility is not just for certain groups but for everyone. The report also said that companies should do more to train leaders and managers to lead flexible teams effectively.

“A wider understanding of flexible work needs to be adopted by government to help move the debate beyond the current focus on family friendly working practices,” said the REC’s chief executive, Kevin Green.

“Part-time working, contracting and other flexible solutions have been a significant factor in keeping people in work and companies in business during this recession. The UK has a competitive advantage in its flexible labour market and by enhancing and promoting the benefits of flexibility to all, we can leverage this advantage to create more, and better, jobs in the UK.”

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