Fewer than one in 10 decently paid job vacancies in the UK mention flexible working options, according to a report that warns skills-starved employers are failing to attract the best workers.
An estimated 14.1 million people in Britain want flexibility on their working hours or location, equivalent to almost half the working population, estimates the consultancy and jobs site Timewise. But its analysis of 3.5m job adverts found just 6.2% both mentioned a degree of flexibility and offered a salary deemed high enough to live on - the full time equivalent (FTE) of £20,000 or more.
The findings coincides with a separate report from recruiters Manpower Group which warns of a “critical shortfall” of qualified workers. It says the north of England is particularly vulnerable, undermining chancellor George Osborne’s ambitions to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
The Timewise research, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said employers were failing to capitalise on changes to the way people work to get the skilled workers they need.
It found flexible job opportunities are best in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England. London is the worst place to find decent-paying, flexible work.
Health job adverts top flexibility rankings
The analysis also found the proportion of jobs advertised with flexible working options varied greatly by sector. Health and social care lead the way with 20% of jobs advertised offering flexibility. Education jobs are next, with 13% offering flexibility. The lowest ranked for flexibility are engineering and manufacturing jobs and creative roles - covering public relations, advertising and marketing.
The report’s co-author and Timewise chief executive Karen Stewart said hiring practices were not reflecting the technological advances that had lead to a “revolution” in the world of work:
Businesses are missing out, as they consistently fail to realise just how important flexibility is to people looking for a new role. This often results in the best talent having to trade down, and take jobs way beneath their level of skill and ability.
Flexibility falls as pay rises
The research also found that flexibility declines at higher salary levels:
Whilst there is a significant proportion of flexible roles advertised below £20,000 FTE, a candidate looking for flexible work below £30,000 FTE will find around twice the job opportunities (as a proportion of all jobs at that level), compared to a candidate looking for work at over £40,000 FTE.
Official figures have pointed to an improving jobs market with the number of people in work at 31 million, the highest since records began in 1971. But Manpower said those numbers failed to show the struggle many employers are having filling vacancies, especially in the north of England, where Osborne has pledged to drive up economic growth.
Manpower’s latest employment outlook, based on a survey of 2,100 UK employers, found that 6% intended to increase staffing levels, unchanged from three months ago. Hiring optimism in both north-west England and north-east England was above the national average but a rapidly worsening skills shortages meant northern employers could not fill vacant roles, the report said.
James Hick, managing director at Manpower Group Solutions said:
While many employers in the south can rely on a steady supply of workers, there are far fewer qualified candidates in the north. With a shortage of skilled trades, IT and engineering skills and employers looking to increase hiring in the coming quarter, skills shortages threaten to hamper business’ growth plans.
George Osborne may dream of a Northern Powerhouse, but the reality will be a Northern power cut if we don’t see more talent coming into the market.
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